State Director, CALPIRG
State Director, CALPIRG
SACRAMENTO — Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) has introduced legislation (Assembly Bill 2026) that aims to reduce single-use plastic packaging used in the e-commerce marketplace. The bill will phase out certain single-use plastic packaging that is often added to goods for shipment of e-commerce purchases. Joining Friedman as coauthors of AB 2026 are Assemblymembers Ting (D-San Francisco), Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Kalra (D-San Jose), Quirk (D-Hayward), and Stone (D-Scotts Valley), as well as Senators Stern (D-Calabasas) and Wiener (D-San Francisco).
“The amount of single-use, non-recyclable plastic being used in packaging only continues to skyrocket and its impacts on our environment are disturbing and costly,” said Assemblymember Laura Friedman. “These plastics, used for a very short period of time, are ending up in our waterways, clogging our waste systems, and worst of all – they’ll take centuries to degrade. As we continue to shift more towards online retailers, we have to ensure they’re operating sustainably.”
Friedman pursued a similar effort last year. That bill, Assembly Bill 1371, passed two policy committees and the appropriations committee with strong support. However, powerful industry lobbying kept the bill from receiving a majority vote on the assembly floor. This result was counter to what a majority of Californians, who are concerned about plastic and marine debris, want.
“We applaud Assemblymember Friedman for protecting our oceans from plastic pollution,” said Oceana’s Pacific Policy and Communications Manager Ashley Blacow-Draeger. “Californians shouldn’t have to worry that the packaging that comes with our online purchases will pollute our oceans, our coasts, and our communities every time we place an order. Alternatives to single-use plastic packaging are available and consumers are calling for plastic-free choices.”
This new bill comes as sales in the e-commerce marketplace have skyrocketed and California leads the country in online shopping, with more than half of California residents reporting making more purchases online. A large majority of shipping envelopes and packaging materials such as air pillows, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts are made of plastic. The vast majority of this plastic becomes waste after a package is opened and then pollutes the environment whether it is sent to landfills, burned or becomes litter.
“The pile of plastic we’re confronted with when we receive an online purchase often can’t be recycled, so when it gets thrown out that packaging sticks around in our communities — piling up in our landfills, littering our streets, and polluting our environment,” said CALPIRG State Director Jenn Engstrom. “Fortunately, we know a world beyond plastic packaging is possible because Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce company, has already committed to stop using single-use plastic in shipments to and within Germany and India. Thanks to Assemblymember Friedman, California has the opportunity to bring this progress to the U.S.”
Most municipal recycling programs in California do not accept shipping envelopes, plastic air pillows, bubble wrap or expanded polystyrene (including packing peanuts and molded foam). This plastic waste increases disposal costs for local communities, their residents and businesses, and has been found to harm marine life. In 2020, the U.S. generated 601.3 million pounds of plastic packaging waste from e-commerce.
“As we got more dependent on online shopping over the last couple of years, we also got more frustrated over the unnecessary plastic that all these packages are wrapped up in,” said Environment California state director, Laura Deehan. “So we are finally breaking up with plastic and urging decision makers to join us, for the love of sea turtles, dolphins and all the life that depends on the ocean.”
If successful, AB 2026 would phase out the use of plastic films, cushioning and other plastic packaging materials in California. This would include materials used for shipping in or into the state. This mandate would require large retailers to meet this mandate by January 1, 2024 and small online retailers to do the same by January 1, 2026.