The Long Beach City Council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that will change how trash is collected in the city in the years to come.
The program is expected to increase monthly bills for Long Beach residents and will come with some big changes, notably a third can where residents will have to sort out organic materials or face escalating fines starting in 2024.
The new ordinance brings the city into compliance with state law, which says every city needs to create an organic recycling program where things like yard clippings and food scraps are diverted to new processing plants to be made into bio-fuel instead of creating methane in landfills.
Long Beach, like other cities, will not receive funding from the state to implement the program and is still trying to find a suitable site to transport organic waste to be processed at, which will likely extend the timeline to implement the program. The city has until the end of 2023 to be fully compliant with the statewide law.
Here’s what you need to know:
Why is Long Beach doing this?
Senate Bill 1383 was signed into law in September 2016 and gives every city in the state until January 2022 to put rules in place for residential and commercial customers to separate waste like yard clippings, food scraps, paper products, and other organic materials into separate containers.
The bill is part of a push by state officials to cut California’s methane emissions by 75% by diverting organic materials away from landfills, with edible food being donated and commercial and residential waste to be recycled into organic fuel.
Cities had until the start of 2022 to pass an ordinance as the first step toward compliance but the city could still be months or years away from actually implementing it.
In passing the ordinance Tuesday, Long Beach protected itself from being fined by CalRecycle, the state agency overseeing the program, for non-compliance. Any fines accrued through 2023 could be waived if the city becomes fully compliant within that calendar year.
How will this affect me?
Your trash bill will likely go up. The city operates on a “cost of service”, which means that it charges customers based on how much it costs the city to provide a given service. The city will have to purchase tens of thousands of new waste bins and will likely have to purchase new trucks and employ more refuse workers to make sure the organic material is hauled away to processing sites.
There will likely be an initial charge for the container—right now the city believes it will add just one additional container—and your monthly trash bill will increase once a rate and program have been established. Those details, including how much the monthly increase will be and when it will begin, have yet to be worked out by the city.
The city will be required to fine non-compliant commercial and residential accounts for not separating organic materials into the new organic material bin. The new ordinance sets the first fine at $50 and escalates up to $500 for a fourth violation and beyond.
A number of things can be considered in issuing a fine, including the severity of the violation, the violator’s ability to pay, and whether the violation was due to circumstances outside of the control of the account holder.
Fines for commercial and residential properties will not start until 2024.
Who gets the fine?
This will be easier to sort out for single-family residences because the fine will go to the property owner. For apartments and other rented properties, it could get more complicated. The account holder with the city could be fined, which in some cases could mean the property management company, the tenant or the property owner, whoever is paying the bill.
Fines can be issued as a result of the city investigating complaints of persons not complying with the new organic recycling law, route reviews and a city inspection program that could include “remote monitoring” for businesses. That could include cameras being placed in trashcans, but the city has not determined how its remote monitoring system will be rolled out.
Can you opt-out?
The short answer is probably not.
Language in the ordinance will allow certain multi-family housing, commercial and residential property owners to apply for a waiver from complying with some or all of the new program if they can prove they lack the space for an additional container.
That would have to be verified by city staff or a licensed engineer, trash hauler, or architect. This kind of waiver would have to be re-verified every five years. A Public Works spokesperson said that these waivers would be granted at the sole discretion of the city and it is not guaranteed they will be issued.
How many homes or businesses might be able to qualify for this waiver is not currently known.
Commercial accounts can apply for a waiver if they can prove that their organic waste production is less than 10-20 gallons per week, depending on the amount of solid waste produced by the business per week.
Composting is an option to reduce the amount of organic waste produced by a household or business, but it won’t exempt them from having to pay for the service. Composting does not account for other organic items like meat, bones, and bread that must be recycled.
Enrollment in the program will be automatic after it is established.
Trash ‘smoothies’ could be future sources of fuel, but cities first need a plan to process organic waste