In addition to implementing the ban on Styrofoam food and beverage containers that the city council approved last month, the Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau continues to expand its efforts toward improving recycling programs and reducing waste.

The city’s contracted recycler, Waste Management, collected approximately 26,500 tons of recyclable materials last year, according to the Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Pat Flynn)


Starting June 3, the bureau plans to execute the Styrofoam ban in three phases: within three months, city-owned facilities and events must comply; in nine months, restaurants with more than 100 seats are no longer allowed to provide the containers; and, in 18 months, the ban applies to all other food service providers.


“We’re focusing all of our attention on the rollout of that program,” Diko Melkonian, the manager of the bureau, said. “We’re eager to see the success of it. We’re hoping to provide some incentives, as much as we are able, for smaller businesses to comply early. It’s really going to take a piece out of the litter stream. This is good for public health, and for our waterways, especially.”


Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau Waste Diversion and Recycling Officer Erin Rowland added that the ban includes a retail component. Within 18 months, the sale of Styrofoam ice chests, bean bags and craft materials will no longer be allowed in the city. Also, the ordinance will ban restaurants from providing plastic straws except by customer request.


Melkonian said the bureau is expanding on the ordinance by rolling out a “Bring Your Own” campaign to encourage diners to bring reusable containers to restaurants. “At the end of the day, [recyclable] containers are still consumption and may become waste,” he commented.


Starting this fall, the bureau is also implementing a waste characterization study on the types of garbage that residents put out, according to Rowland. Based on the results, it will launch an education program on opportunities to improve recycling efforts over the next six to eight months. “Pursuant to legislation approved by the state, we’re also studying commercial and residential organic collection, meaning food and possibly yard waste,” Melkonian said.


Another goal is to enhance the Long Beach Clean Team, a division of the bureau that focuses on clearing litter, debris and illegally dumped items from city streets. “Our goal for this year and next is to change the mindset [regarding] trash,” Melkonian explained. “We want to reduce the waste generated rather than respond to illegal dumping. We’re doing fairly well with response, but we want to shift our focus to stop it at the source.” To achieve this aim, the environmental services bureau is partnering with neighborhood and business associations, as well as private trash companies operating within the city.


Another initiative of the Clean Team is promoting the ‘No Litter Zone’ program, which consists of businesses that have taken a voluntary pledge to keep their areas litter free. The program educates the city’s businesses and residents on maintaining the community’s appearance. The Clean Team has also partnered with the city’s restaurants, bars and barbershops to implement the ‘Can Your Butts’ program, which aims to reduce cigarette litter.


Other efforts of the environmental services bureau include partnering with Waste Management, the city’s contracted recycler, to hold collection events for running shoes and bicycles. The running shoe drive was held in conjunction with the JetBlue Long Beach Marathon and Half Marathon in October, and the annual ‘Recycle Your Bicycle’ event took place at the beginning of May in honor of Long Beach Bike Month. The items were donated to charities and the bicycles that were in too poor of a condition to restore were recycled.


The bureau also coordinates opportunities for residents to discard unwanted paper documents and household hazardous waste such as aerosols, batteries and motor oil. The hazardous waste collection events take place at the Los Angeles/EDCO Environmental Collection Center, located at 2755 California Ave. in Signal Hill, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month. The next document-shredding event is on June 2, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Veteran’s Memorial Stadium Parking lot, 5000 E. Lew Davis St. For items such as mattresses, furniture, computers, television sets and appliances, the bureau provides each residential account with two free special collections every year.


“All of these projects will roll into a zero-waste plan to guide Long Beach residents and businesses toward generating zero waste,” Melkonian said. “They fall under a bigger umbrella that the bureau is working under for the next few years. We’re conducting lots of stakeholder engagement with residents and businesses, environmental groups and the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.”