As the State of California remains a leader in environmental initiatives and continues to pursue the ambitious goals of Gov. Jerry Brown, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has made environmental initiatives a primary focus of his administration.


Along with state mandates, such as mandatory access to recycling collection and requirements for businesses to separate organic waste and donate at least 20% of discarded edibles to feed people in need, the city has a slew of green programs in place.

The Long Beach Environmental Services’ Clean Team works on a litter abatement project, which includes the timely removal of illegally dumped items from alleyways, streets and curbsides. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)


The city’s “purple cart” recycling program is a testament to Long Beach’s commitment to environmental issues. The program, which began in 1992 and is now in its 25th year, is a curbside recycling operation that saw residents recycle more than 57.5 million points of materials such as plastic bottles, glass jars, cardboard, paper, aluminum and tin cans last year alone. The amount of trash being sent to landfills has been reduced by nearly 75% since 1989 due to efforts such as waste reduction, commercial recycling, construction debris recycling, waste-to-energy conversion, green waste diversion and composting.


The city also has crews, known as the Clean Team, working on a litter abatement project, which includes the timely removal of illegally dumped items from alleyways, streets and curbsides. In addition, the crews assist with litter cleanup events citywide, and the Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau will launch new initiatives this year focusing on combating common types of litter to keep parks, beaches and communities clean and trash-free.


Years before Californians voted in favor of banning single-use plastic bags, Long Beach implemented a ban. Now, the city is considering a ban on Styrofoam, citing it as one of the items most polluting our beaches and city in general. Currently, stakeholders are being asked for input to be considered by the city council before making a final decision.


In September of last year, the city began phase two of its nearly $7 million LED streetlight retrofit project. The project includes the replacement of more than 25,000 high-pressure sodium streetlights with LED streetlights, which have a 24-year lifespan when operating 12 hours per day and will save an estimated $15.1 million in that time. The project should be completed this year and will save 9.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, reducing Long Beach’s overall energy consumption by nearly 10%.


Last year, the Long Beach Fleet Services Bureau was named one of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine’s Top 50 Green Fleets. The list includes government, private, for-hire, vocational and delivery fleets from across the country. More than half of the city’s new vehicles are alternatively fueled, including about 18% of the fleet that runs on renewable fuels. Renewable diesel and liquefied natural gas are expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 6,000 tons per year.


In January, the city began a program to give away 270 electric vehicle chargers. Residents who own or lease an electric vehicle and have obtained an electrical permit are eligible. The program coincides with the launch of an expedited permitting process for residents who intend to install a charging station at their home.


In the spirit of becoming more environmentally sustainable and resilient, the city is examining its first Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) – not to be confused with the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports’ Clean Air Action Plan. The goal is to better prepare the city for extreme heat, earthquakes, sea level rise and other potential environmental consequences of climate change.


Through CAAP and other programs, city officials are continuing to adopt practices that limit or eliminate waste and pollution, which keep Long Beach at the forefront of environmental awareness.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.