Residential refuse rates are expected to increase by about $5 in 2019 after new state laws and shrinking markets for recyclables have increased the cost of business. Stock photo

Starting next year, refuse and recycling rates for Long Beach residents will increase by nearly $5 per month as the city tries to balance increased costs of collecting items and new state laws requiring more items to be recycled.

Rates are expected to be increased in two waves starting with a $2.41 increase in March and then another $2.47 increase in October. The two increases will bring the average charge assessed to customers to about $28.99 per month.

The increases will impact single-family home accounts, small businesses, duplexes, triplexes and buildings with 10 units of less. That represents about 120,000 accounts served weekly by the city’s trash haulers.

Diko Meokonian, the city’s bureau manager of environmental services, said the rate increases are being propelled by a number of issues, including state laws that have required cleaner trucks to haul away trash and recyclables, the cost to process those items, and a shrinking market of buyers lining up to buy them.

“What we’ve realized, especially in the western half of the United States, is that China was the buyer of many of recyclable commodities and China no longer wants to buy those materials or has made the regulation of those materials, and the contamination levels, so minute that it’s virtually impossible to meet those requirements,” Melkonian said.

The proposed rate increases, which were revealed in a memo from the public works department to the city manager this week, are expected to be voted on by the City Council in February. Customers are expected to be alerted about this vote by an insert in their December billing information.

The memo cites rising costs for disposal, the replacement of the roughly 70 trucks in the city’s fleet and new legislation requiring cities to recycle and divert more waste as factors necessitating the rate increases.

Melkonian said the department is over halfway toward replacing the entire fleet with new trucks which cost over $300,000 per unit. However, he said that the department did get a break timing-wise in terms of when it locked in its pricing for its new trash haulers.

“The vehicles need to be replaced,” Melkonian said. “They’re old, they’re breaking down and the cost of vehicles has gone up. We’re lucky enough that we got our pricing before the steel tariffs kicked in.”

Despite the $4.88 per month average increase for most customers’ bills, the memo states that the average tab of about $29 per month will still rank below other area cities’ monthly charge to customers including Los Angeles ($36.32), Santa Monica ($52.53) and Pasadena ($40.99).

The increased monthly cost will also come with some added levels of service. Residents will now be entitled to four annual large item pickups from the city, doubling the previous allowance.

The countywide household waste facility located in Signal Hill will also be opened one more Saturday per month and the city is expected to be able to increase its ability to respond to reports of illegally dumped items according to Melkonian.

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