Long Beach officials are creating an ordinance that would require food and yard waste to be separated out to be processed at a separate facility to align with a state law that goes into effect Jan. 1, but the infrastructure actually needed to comply with the new state law is unlikely to be in place by the start of the year.
Senate bill 1383, signed into law in September 2016, gave local governments until January 2022 to set in place rules that require residential and commercial customers to separate yard clippings and food scraps into different containers to be recycled as the state tries to cut back on methane emissions from landfills.
While the council voted Tuesday to move forward with writing the ordinance, a study session in August revealed that the city, like others across the region, would likely miss the compliance date.
The city could have to add to its fleet of trash trucks and issue new bin or bins to residential customers to allow them to sort out their trash for pick up. After that, it would have to find a facility to handle the new organic recycling. It will also have to hire additional employees to drive the trucks and enforce the law.
Erin Rowland, a waste diversion officer with the city’s Public Works department, said earlier this year that there is a shortage of those facilities in Southern California and most can only process yard waste or food scraps, not both.
Once the city is able to fully comply with the law, residential refuse and recycling rates could double “at minimum”, Rowland said during the August study session. A typical monthly bill for residential accounts is currently $28.99.
Residents and commercial account holders can be fined for not complying with the law, and the city is required to enforce the program, according to state law. The fines can range between $50 and $500, according to the legislation.
The city itself can also be fined.
CalRecycle, the agency overseeing the program, can fine cities for non-compliance starting in 2024. However, the fines can be backdated to January 2022, the original implementation date.
A more recently adopted law, SB-619, could provide some breathing room for the city.
It would allow cities that have an “intent to comply” submission approved by CalRecycle by March 2022 to have fines waived for the entire calendar year. Fines accrued during the 2023 calendar year can also be waived if a city becomes fully compliant during that year.
Adopting an ordinance is an element of complying with the law but it’s unclear how fast the city can secure enough trucks and additional bins to issue to account holders. The city currently has no estimate for how much the program will cost the city or customers once it’s up and running.
The ordinance is expected to return to the City Council before the end of the year so it can take effect before the start of 2022.
[Editors note: This story has been updated with information about SB-619 that allows fines to be waived for cities who intend to comply with the organic recycling mandate.]