A Long Beach Waste Management truck picks up recycling in the Lakewood Village neighborhood, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Long Beach is working to expand its organic recycling program to all commercial accounts as it prepares to meet a 2024 compliance deadline for a new state law that requires cities to divert organic material away from landfills to reduce methane emissions.

The City Council is scheduled to approve the purchase of eight new trash trucks Tuesday night to expand the commercial side of the program beyond the original 115 businesses that took part in its pilot program that launched in June.

The eight trucks the city is looking to purchase to service those commercial accounts are expected to cost $3.5 million.

Expanding the program will affect thousands of accounts. But because of the time it will take to deliver those trucks to the city, business owners shouldn’t expect a change to their trash service until early next year.

“Once the trucks are ordered it takes nearly a year for them to be built and delivered and ready for service,” said Diko Melkonian, the city’s deputy director of Public Works. “In the meantime, we’re going through and identifying what businesses will be required to take part based on the volume of trash they generate.”

Once the expanded program is operational, businesses will be issued a new green bin to collect organic materials like food scraps, landscaping debris and paper products that will be transported to new facilities to be processed separately from other trash. Some of it can potentially be converted into renewable fuel sources.

The cost of the cart and the cost of transporting it to a new facility to be processed will be factored into future bills, which the city has said are going to increase.

It’s all part of an effort to align with Senate Bill 1383, a new law that requires organic materials to be diverted from landfills, which state regulators say could reduce the amount of decomposition-created methane that’s entering the atmosphere and warming the planet.

The state estimates that landfills account for 20% of the state’s methane emissions, which is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Long Beach adopted an intent to comply with the law that could spare it from fines for during 2022 and 2023 as long as the program is fully operational by 2024.

Melkonian said the rollout of the full program could come in multiple stages. Apartment buildings with more than four units, which technically are commercial accounts, could be one of the last elements of the program.

SB 1383 requires the city to monitor accounts for compliance and to issue fines—which could prove difficult when trying to determine which unit of a building is not separating their waste correctly.

The full implementation of the program for the city’s residential accounts likely won’t happen until closer to the January 2024 deadline, when the city could begin receiving fines for noncompliance.

Melkonian said the city is still analyzing how the city will transport the new waste, what facility it will use for processing and how many trucks will be required to service all the city’s accounts.

“It’s going to be more than eight, I can tell you that,” he said. “But that’s exactly what we’re studying right now.”

The city is also still looking for a site that can handle processing all the residential accounts. While the state law requires cities to comply with the new organic recycling program, Southern California in particular lacks the existing infrastructure to process organic waste separately from other trash. Many facilities in the region can only handle food scraps or yard waste, not both.

Melkonian said the city has found a site in Los Angeles County, but the site can’t provide service to every city in the region, so it’s still undetermined where Long Beach will send its organic waste in the future.

Here’s what a new statewide organic recycling law that goes into effect in 2022 means for Long Beach

Long Beach’s trash burning facility faces legislative, infrastructure challenges

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at jason@lbpost.com or @JasonRuiz__LB on Twitter.