Decline paper receipts
Paper receipts contain nasty chemicals, classified by the EU as toxic to humans and the environment. There’s something else hidden, you guessed it, plastic. Making receipts yet another, more unknown, environmental disaster.
Plastic in paper receipts
Receipts cannot be recycled. In the past, I would innocently place my receipts in a scrunched-up ball in the recycling. However, most paper receipts are not suitable to go in with recycled paper. This is because the shiny, soft thermal paper contains a chemical called bisphenol-A or sometimes bisphenol S (BPA or BPS).
Thermal uses heat from a printer, not ink, to make letters and numbers on the paper. If you scratch one of these receipts and see a dark or shiny mark, it contains BPA or BPS.
Toxicity of plastic paper receipts
BPA used to be common in the manufacture of plastics, such as water and beaker bottles. Research began showing that BPA could mimic the action of oestrogen. The chemicals are endocrine disrupters, which affect the hormone balance in the body. Growing concerns that BPA exposure could cause a range of health problems, such as obesity, heart disease and prostate and breast cancer has seen a reduction.
Environmental impact of receipts
Paper receipts contribute to deforestation. In the US alone, to make receipt paper requires up to 10 million trees. In the UK, it’s estimated that restaurants print 811,000,000 bills and card receipts each year. In one year, if you printed all these receipts in one giant roll, you could wrap around the world 3.44 times.
How to avoid paper receipts
If you don’t need the receipt, the best thing to do is decline it. If you do need a receipt and there’s an option to email it, take advantage of it and save paper.
How to dispose of receipts
Around 93% of receipts are thermal, but if you’re sure yours in just paper, then do add it to the paper recycling.
For the rest, similar to single-use disposable coffee cups, which at first glance look like pure paper but at closer inspection have a glossy plastic sheen, must go to landfill.
Throw the receipts in the trash and be sure to wash your hands immediately. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s better to separate the receipts than risk transferring the chemicals into recycled products.
If a paper receipt is printed on phenol-free thermal paper, it can be recycled in the mixed office paper of local recycling streams.
The best thing to do is wherever possible decline a receipt.
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