We’ve all been there. We go to a grocery store or pharmacy, buy an item and walk away with a receipt as long as the Nile River.
One California lawmaker says enough is enough.
Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, unveiled a plan on Tuesday to take the state off of printed receipts. Under Assembly Bill 161, businesses would have to give customers electronic receipts if they don’t ask for physical copies.
“Most people assume that all these receipts can be recyclable. Guess what? They can’t,” Ting said. “It’s common-sense legislation. We think it’s a minimal cost, and it’s really putting the power back in the consumers by saying, ‘Hey, if you want the paper, yeah, you can ask for it, but why force you to take the paper?’”
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If passed and signed into law, California would be the first state in the country to shift the default from paper receipts to electronic ones, according to Green America, a nonprofit environmental organization. The plan would go into effect at the start of 2022.
Many of the bill’s provisions match those of a new law requiring customers to ask for plastic straws if they want one. Businesses that don’t comply with the law would receive two warnings before being fined $25 for each subsequent violation. The penalties would stop once a business hits $300 in a given year.
Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste — a nonprofit that aims to reduce pollution — said the fees are aimed at changing behavior rather than punishing businesses.
“It’s intended to be a pretty light touch in terms of enforcement, but as you probably have noticed in the past couple months, straws are already being taken out of most restaurants,” Lapis said. “I think there’s an opportunity to do something similar here.”
Pamela Williams, acting president of the California Retailers Association, said it’s too soon for the group to take a position on the bill. She wonders how the proposal would affect smaller to medium-sized retailers who can’t afford to invest in software that would offer e-receipts.
Standing next to a 10-foot human receipt at a news conference on Tuesday, Ting said his plan does not offer exemptions to small businesses since they are already implementing the technology.
“Small businesses have already adopted this much faster,” Ting said. “It’s really many of these larger, older, legacy systems that haven’t caught up to today’s times.”