Proposed Dumpster Lid Ordinance Would Foil Rats Without Using Poison

A dumpster shown before and after proposed ordinance regulations were initiated

The effort to eradicate rat poison from Malibu continues to move forward.

In an effort to control rodents without the use of rat poison throughout Malibu and the surrounding mountains, Poison Free Malibu and the Malibu Environmental Sustainability Department will be proposing the adoption of a locking dumpster lid ordinance that would primarily affect businesses and multiunit residences. 

“Open dumpsters and trash spillage are a huge source of rodent food that attracts and breeds them,” Poison Free Malibu co-founder Kian Schulman wrote in an email. Too often, she explained, commercial property owners resort to putting out poison bait boxes rather than the cheaper and easier solution of putting locked tight-fitting lids on waste containers that rats can’t get into. 

Last Monday, an Environmental Sustainability Subcommittee meeting was held with City Council Members Skylar Peak and Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, Environmental Sustainability Director Craig George and City Manager Reva Feldman. Schulman spoke and George introduced proposed amendments to the Malibu Municipal Code dumpster ordinance.

George said in an email that the amendments, which were recommended by city staff and agreed to by the subcommittee, were to keep all containers with food waste locked at all times, and to keep containers with office waste (mostly paper) locked only if they receive two citations. 

“Before the amendment goes to council, the city attorney needs to review the proposed language and a formal staff report needs to be prepared and approved,” George wrote. “This item will not likely be heard by council until early March.”

If the amendments pass, George feels the current city staff of code enforcement officers “is sufficient to enforce the proposed changes,” especially since an additional officer was just hired a few weeks ago. 

“This simple fix of directing and enforcing dumpsters to be closed and locked will go a long way. Locking is also important to prevent overstuffing and unauthorized access,” Schulman said. 

Casey Zweig, the city’s environmental programs coordinator, runs the city’s commercial inspections program, which takes her out to various types of local businesses twice each year to look at waste management, recycling, composting and more. While on location, she goes through a checklist that includes whether a restaurant uses poisons, and offers help and education if needed.

A state law recently went into effect that is also reducing the amount of rat poison used by businesses in Malibu. It now requires businesses to recycle organic waste (food and green waste) if they generate at least four cubic yards of organic waste per week. 

Universal Waste Systems (UWS) offers a service that collects and recycles this waste six days per week in Malibu, and washes out the bin containers each time. Since rodents are unable to chew through the closed bins UWS uses, and since the remaining trash is so much more sanitary without food waste mixed in it, they say their restaurant clients no longer have to use rodenticides and pesticides.

“UWS has tripled the tonnage they’re collecting in Malibu, and I hope this year more businesses opt into that program,” Zweig said. 

Unfortunately, even with progress, “animals are being poisoned here in Malibu every day,” Schulman said. “Educational outreach is the best means we have to help stop this ignorance.”

Rat poison does not kill rats right away—it just slows them down. Then, they become easy prey for local wildlife like coyotes, bobcats, foxes, owls, hawks and even mountain lions, which die and become ill from eating the poisoned rats. In this way, poison can disrupt an entire ecosystem.

Poison Free Malibu does not recommend trapping outside, and points out that, “Nontarget animals are often found in snap traps, including birds, squirrels, raccoons’ hands, lizards, snakes—even a skunk was rescued recently stuck in a box.”

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