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The Downtown Long Beach Alliance’s (DLBA) Operations Department staff is reporting a 30% spike in refuse and green waste collected by its Clean Team in Downtown since the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions last March.

“We’ve always dealt with trash, but we’re noticing a big increase,” said Steve Be Cotte, DLBA’s Community Outreach Manager, who co-leads the Public Safety Department with Chief Operating Officer Broc Coward. “The Downtown trash cans that DLBA services are constantly full. When we started our trash service, we were doing four days of pickups a week. Now we’re up to six.” Be Cotte noted that in the last three months, the Clean Team has handled 13,000 pounds of trash. He added, “But as a result of our Clean Team’s efforts, Downtown is the cleanest it’s ever been.”

Statistics shared by the City of Long Beach show the trend reflected citywide. Since the pandemic started, there has been a 13% increase in commercial and residential refuse throughout the City, a 34% increase in requests to collect illegally dumped item, and a 48% increase in trash pick-up requests made through the GoLongBeach app, which enables users to submit service requests by phone.

Increasing trash accumulation throughout the City has been exacerbated by changes to refuse collection services due to COVID-19. Jennifer Carey, Community Relations Officer for the Long Beach Public Works Department, explained: “Staffing continues to be an issue as we deal with the challenges of ongoing staff COVID-19 exposure and quarantines,” she said. “Community cleanups, which are a tremendous help in keeping our City clean, were on hold until recently when new safety protocols could be implemented. Street sweeping operations have been impacted as fewer vehicles are being moved, resulting in the inability to properly sweep.”

Despite the increase in trash and debris, Be Cotte noted that there is a silver lining for DLBA’s Clean and Safe Team. “During this time when there has been such a laser focus on health and safety, we’ve also been able to focus on Clean Team efficiency by looking at what we’re doing well and where we can speed some things up to get routes done faster,” he said. “The COVID-19 crisis has made our team better.”

The City also views the situation as an opportunity to evolve, continuing to adapt and reallocate staffing whenever possible to address this pressing issue. “The City is working with our partner agencies such as the Conservation Corps of Long Beach and the Los Cerritos Wetlands Stewardship to help with cleanup efforts, and to increase outreach and education in an effort to make the community aware of the challenges we face. We are asking for their help in keeping our community clean,” said Carey.

DLBA’s Clean Team is working hard to stay ahead of the trash problem, filling bags with street refuse and emptying DLBA’s 117 Downtown metal trash cans manually, as opposed to the City’s trash cans which are hoisted by machine. “We’re using this time to regroup and fine-tune,” said Be Cotte. “We will keep the standard high, and we will be stronger when everything comes back.”