First published in the Feb. 19 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman recently introduced legislation that aims to reduce single-use plastic packaging used in the e-commerce marketplace.
The legislation, Assembly Bill 2026, calls for phasing 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 Assemblymen Phil Ting, Richard Bloom, Ash Kalra, Bill Quirk and Mark Stone, as well as state Sens. Henry Stern and Scott Wiener.
“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,” Friedman said in a statement. “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 with Assembly Bill 1371, which passed two policy committees and the appropriations committee with strong support but failed to garner a majority vote in the full assembly. Citing “powerful industry lobbying,” Friedman called the result “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. California leads the country in online shopping, according to Friedman, 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, Friedman added.
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 United States generated 601.3 million pounds of plastic packaging waste from e-commerce.
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 Jan. 1, 2024, and small online retailers to do the same by Jan. 1, 2026.