Each year in the UK, over 11 billion paper till receipts are printed, usually automatically. Most of these are never used or get lost, and they actually can’t be recycled due to the chemicals used to print them. So they get either erronously recycled, crumpled up or left in plastic bags. Most people think that till receipts can be recycled, so they mess up recycling schemes, when they go in recycling bins, so people are trying to do the right thing, not aware that the paper is coated with chemicals that stop them being able to be part of the loop.
The paper is made to react to ink, and contains chemicals called BPA or BPS (classed as toxic to people and the planet – even plastic bottles are no longer allowed to use them, due to a risk with cancer). Bisphenol-A and bisphenol-S have been linked to type 2 diabetes, reproductive and foetal development issues, and are also banned from children’s toes. Yet each time you touch a receipt, these chemicals go into your bloodstream, through your hands. It’s believed detectable levels of BPS in bodies is linked to exposure to paper receipts, in 90% of cases. And people who handle them regularly (like shopkeepers and waiters) have 30% more levels.
In one episode of The Bad Skin Clinic, a man with severe eczema visited the doctor, as he could not work out what was causing his problem. She did a bit of digging and discovered that his job as a waiter meant he was touching receipts all day. She advised him to swap jobs. He did, and his eczema almost immediately disappeared, as he was allergic to the ink used to print the receipts.
The organisation Business Waste wants till receipts banned, as most people are happy to not have them anyway for small purchases. There are also apps (below) that can be used by customers and/or retailers, for those who wish to continue receiving receipts. Or at least give people the option to refuse receipts, if not necessary. Not using receipts would also save the equivalent of over 50,000 trees being binned (this is the same as all the trees in London’s 8 royal parks).
How We Can Use Less Paper Receipts
- If you shop at self-service checkouts at supermarkets, always press the button to refuse a receipt.
- Green Till is an Irish company that offers digital receipt services. The app enars to return, exchange and claim tax on expenses, all without paper receipts.
- Flux App lets you pay as normal at participating retailers (small ones can join up), using a Flux-enabled bank card, then the receipt is attached in your banking app. It runs the campaign Beat the Receipt, where you can discover the carbon footprint of the receipts you use weekly. The site informs that if we left the trees intact (rather than to make paper receipts), this would remove over 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide from our planet each year. The UK’s present use of receipts also uses 1.6 billion litres of water per year (enough to give 1.5 million clean drinking water for a year).
- Verd Receipt App lets you create a private email, so you don’t have to give out your personal email address in a shop, in order to receive a digital receipt.
- In the US, there is a similar campaign called Skip the Slip. This has even more clout, as you likely know that most Americans eat out, and waiting on tables is a far more ‘professional job’ out there, so not accepting paper receipts in the most consumerist country on earth has huge positive ramifications.
According to Tablet Yeti, 55,000 receipts chops down one tree. At UK restaurant levels, that means almost 14,500 trees are felled each year, just to make paper receipts.