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Central Coast News

San Luis Obispo may increase solid waste rate on May 1 amid new regulations, rising costs

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Rachel Showalter
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New state regulations targeting greenhouse gas emissions in landfills are leading many cities in California to adopt higher waste disposal rates, including on the Central Coast.

An estimate by the California League of Cities said that seven out of 10 cities in the state anticipate a 1-20% increase in rates from 2021 to 2024.

The rising rates are a result of inflation and the costs of implementing State Bill 1383’s new requirements that took effect January 1 of this year, mandating a reduction in the amount of organic waste in landfills. It’s an effort to curb emissions and combat climate change.

Many San Luis Obispo residents recently received a notice in the mail informing them that waste rates may increase by over 20 percent this year if the City Council approves a new plan.

The proposed rate increase would be a total of 26.63% from two different increases: a $17.75% permanent increase and a temporary 8.88% increase this year only, which the city council will approve or deny on April 19.

Jordan Lane is the Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator for the City of San Luis Obispo.

“We sent out the public notice 45 days prior, so that gives residents a period of time in which they can protest if they don’t feel the rate is appropriate.” 

Lane said San Luis Obispo is the first city in the region to go forward with a potential rate increase, and that its increase will be considerably smaller than other cities on the Central Coast.

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Beth Thornton
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Anaerobic digesters like this one in Santa Barbara convert organic waste into energy.

Under the proposed plan, the average customer in SLO who subscribes to a 32-gallon service level would see an increase of just under $5 a month.

“And that’ll still be about 10-15% less than different cities and towns in our region on the Central Coast here," Lane said.

According to Lane, other cities in the area could see rate increases of about 45%.

She attributes that difference to smart city planning in SLO’s recent past as well as the city’s anaerobic digester facility that converts organic waste into energy.

Still, Lane said, there are plenty of people in San Luis Obispo who may not be able to afford a rate increase, so the city is working on a financial assistance program for lower-income residents.

"That’s a 15% discount on the rates for solid waste services, and we should have that program operational by late summer or early fall," Lane said.

So what happens if the city council doesn’t pass the rate increase? Lane said the costs of complying with SB1383 will still be there, so the city will have to look for other ways to cover them.

“It will likely fall to the general fund or another rate-payer funded account to cover the cost, because like I said, they’re mandated by the state and they’re going to help us achieve those greenhouse gas emissions reductions."

The SLO City Council will hold a public hearing and decide on the rate increase proposal at a meeting on April 19, and Lane says other cities in the area will likely follow suit after that.

More information on waste regulations and rates in SLO County is available on the Integrated Waste Management Authority’s website at iwma.com.

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