The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday to approve two trash rate increases for accounts serviced by the city, something city officials say is needed to prepare for compliance with a statewide organic recycling law and to prevent its reserves from completely running out.

Customers can expect an increase in July, which will add about $3.90 per month to the average single-family home’s bill, and then a second increase in October, which will add an additional $4.34 per month to the average single-family home’s bill and bring the total monthly portion for trash to about $42.66.

Apartments and duplexes would see similar increases, with monthly bills jumping to $36.03 per month and $39.34 per month respectively by October.

“That’s going to be the reality of California trash bills,” Diko Melkonian, deputy director of the Public Works Department, told the City Council Tuesday.

The rate increases were the subject of a special Proposition 218 meeting on Tuesday, which is required under state law when some utility rates are adjusted. Just 109 people submitted protests to the increases, and over 59,200 were needed to create a majority protest to the increase.

While the council voted unanimously to support the increases, some commented that the unfunded state mandates were unfairly being put on the backs of residents and businesses who have to pay for the new costs of organic recycling.

The organic recycling law that has led in part to the hikes, Senate Bill 1383, was signed into law in 2016 and requires all California cities to divert organic waste like yard clippings and food scraps from local landfills where they release methane into the atmosphere, something that is considered 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The law has a goal of reducing methane emissions from landfills, which is where state officials say 20% of the state’s methane production comes from, by 75% by 2025. However, like Long Beach, other cities are running into the realities of the state-mandated program that was adopted without funding or enough facilities to process organic waste.

A cost of service study commissioned by the city found that the bill is expected to add about $7.8 million in costs for the city’s refuse program and the cost to dispose of the organic material, which can be converted into natural gas fuel, is about $20-$40 more per ton than other trash.

The city has to purchase tens of thousands of carts for residential and commercial accounts so they can place organic waste in them, but officials will also need to purchase new trucks, hire new drivers and other personnel to administer the program, which is expected to go into effect next year for residential customers.

The new organic recycling carts will be green, and Melkonian said that state law will also require the purple recycle bins to be replaced with blue carts in the future.

A larger rate increase is expected to be voted on at some point in 2024 when residential collection begins for organic recycling, something Melkonian said the department is anticipating adding about $3 million to its costs.

The city has hired a consultant to figure out how high that increase will be.

Part of the increases have been attributed to new state law, but the city’s refuse account’s reserve has also been dwindling, and it’s about $20 million below the four-month operating costs the department tries to keep on hand for emergencies.

The proposed rates approved by the council Tuesday afternoon could see the reserve balance quickly increase and hit the $25 million balance targeted by the city by late 2025.

With the council’s vote Tuesday, new trash rates will become effective July 1, with the second increase hitting customers’ bills starting in October.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.