Long Beach refuse rates will increase in September as the city prepares for the rollout of a state-mandated organic recycling program, but how the city will apply a second scheduled increase is still up in the air.

The City Council held a hearing Tuesday night for proposed refuse rate increases that the city’s Public Works department said it needs to buy new trucks and cans for the organics recycling program set to begin next year. It also plans to use the money to build up its operating reserves, which currently have only enough money to fund one month of operations.

Under the proposal, rates were supposed to increase in September and then again in January with the average single-family home seeing its bill go from $28.99 to $40.87 and commercial accounts, including apartment complexes, seeing their rates jump by as much as $180 per month, depending on the size of their bins.

Council members ultimately voted to approve an initial increase next month of about $5.43 per month for a typical single-family home. But the $6.45 rate increase scheduled for January could be broken up into smaller chunks in an attempt to ease the financial stress on residents.

The increases arrive as the city is trying to comply with Senate Bill 1383, a state law that requires all cities to start diverting organic materials like food scraps, yard waste and other compostable materials away from landfills to help reduce the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Some facilities convert the material to condensed natural gas for vehicles.

However, Diko Melkonian, the city’s deputy director of Public Works, warned that the rate increases do not include the cost of transporting the organic waste or a new facility to house the trucks the department is purchasing to run the program.

The city is also looking at potentially retrofitting its current trash disposal facility into an organic waste recycling center since there is a shortage of facilities to handle those materials in the region.

The rate hikes are expected to help pay for 27,500 new residential carts and 4,850 commercial carts that residents will have to use to separate out organics or face fines.

Council members were sympathetic to members of the public who protested the rate increases. However, only about 280 protests were received by the city and a successful challenge of the rate increase requires a majority of households to oppose it.

The council’s vote Tuesday night to approve the September increase also asked for options on how to phase in the second increase, which it will consider some time before January.

City says refuse rates need to increase to keep pace with rising costs

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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.