Photos provided by Kian Schulman of Poison Free Malibu show dumpsters overflowing at businesses and shopping centers across Malibu in June 2019.

All Malibu dumpsters will be required to have locked lids by the summer of 2020. On Jan. 27, city council voted, 5-0, to bring back an ordinance requiring locking lids on dumpster bins at all times. The ordinance covers bins for commercial waste, organic waste and recycling. Dumpsters will also be required to have “double plastic lids.”

“The desired outcome is to improve the cleanliness of these trash areas, prevent the presence of rodents and discourage the use of rodenticides,” Environmental Sustainability Analyst Christine Shen said during her staff report on the item.

The current municipal code requires that solid waste container lids be closed at all times and that trash areas be kept in clean and sanitary conditions. The city can require locking lids if the code is not followed, Shen said.

In June 2019, the council directed Environmental Sustainability Department staff to bring back an ordinance requiring 24/7 locking lids by June 2020. Staff was additionally directed to implement the Enhanced Dumpster Implementation Program, Shen said, which involves monitoring by sustainability department staff and the issuing of warnings and corrections, Clean Bay restaurant inspections, follow-up inspections and complaints from the public.

Council was given a choice between two options, which were recommended by the Environmental Sustainability Subcommittee (ESS). Option one would target only repeat violators; option two would require locking lids for all businesses.

Jimmy Chavez, manager of Duke’s Malibu Restaurant, spoke in favor of option one. 

“It wouldn’t put costs onto every business, just the violators within the City of Malibu, since it takes a great deal of energy, training and education to keep your trash areas clean, and we feel strongly that we do a good job as do many other businesses in Malibu and shouldn’t have to pay the additional costs to enforce that,” Chavez said.

Other food service managers weighed in to agree with Chavez and point out that the locked bin solution might not be able to solve all pest issues.

Kian Schulman, co-founder of the environmental nonprofit Poison Free Malibu, came prepared with a seven-minute slideshow featuring photos taken between Jan. 17-19 of numerous dumpsters across the city that were not in compliance with current city ordinances.

“Several of the Clean Bay city-certified restaurants for 2019 have been the worst offenders for trash control,” Schulman said.

She criticized the city’s efforts to enforce clean and sanitary dumpster conditions, describing Malibu’s dumpster problem as “severe.”

“Cumbersome and frequent, multiple warnings just doesn’t work. Education alone doesn’t work. Two visits a year doesn’t work. A straightforward 24/7 dumpster lid lock ordinance is simple to implement and enforce with clear, strong penalties,” Schulman said.

Schulman said the staff report’s statement that only a minority of businesses have poor solid waste practices is not true, and that very few businesses are obeying the existing code.

Schulman’s photos depicted, to name a few examples, five Malibu High School dumpsters with lids open, overstuffed dumpsters with open lids at Zuma Beach Plaza, a Malibu Village dumpster with a broken lid that has not been replaced, she said, since June 2019. Schulman also showed photos of dumpsters with rodent holes in their lids. 

Many of the dumpsters featured belonged to Clean Bay Certified restaurants, Schulman said.

Schulman concluded her presentation by emphasizing the importance of returning to 24/7 lid locks.

Council Member Skylar Peak, a member of the ESS, explained why two different options were proposed “even though we had said that we wanted them to be locked all the time.”

“I think there’s no solution that everyone’s going to be cheerful and happy for,” Peak said. “Because, on one hand, we have people that are concerned about the environment that want them to be locked all the time, and then on the other hand, we have business owners that are expressing their concerns with costs and staff time, et cetera, et cetera.”

Council Member Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, also a member of the ESS, mentioned dumpsters with “bear lids” as a previously discussed alternative option.

Mayor Pro Tem Mikke Pierson said that when he was a business owner in Santa Monica, he used locking lids “because that’s the only thing that would work.” Pierson said he liked the bear lids that Wagner proposed because they cannot be overstuffed.

Waste Management Route Manager Steve Lee said that locking bins are already being delivered to Malibu. He said bear bins are not being used anywhere in the region.

“These are definitely going to need to be a special order,” Lee said. “There’s a lot of mechanisms that go along with those containers, too, which are going to take quite a bit of maintenance.”

Council Member Rick Mullen said it might be better to “stick with the original plan” of locking lids rather than trying to import lids from long distances.

Council members unanimously voted in favor of option two requiring locked bins citywide, with staff to bring back the official ordinance text at a future meeting.

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