When an item is physically small, it may not convey the impact it has on the world. Paper receipts are small slips that carry with them vast environmental costs and can pose risks to our health through direct contact.
Extraction and use of these resources take a toll on the climate. Every year in the United States, production of paper receipts uses the wood equivalent of 12.4 million trees and 13 billion gallons of water. It generates 1.5 billion pounds of waste and emits 4 billion pounds of CO2.
Along with a wasteful use of resources and emissions, paper receipts carry risks to our health. It’s estimated that 93% of paper receipts are coated with bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S (BPS), endocrine disruptors linked to devastating health effects. As you may know from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ efforts to tackle BPA in canned foods, studies have linked BPA exposure to issues like breast cancer, prostate cancer, reproductive health and developmental problems. Awareness about the potential risks of BPA has grown in the public, but the lesser-known BPS has become a common replacement for BPA in thermal paper receipts, and it may be just as hazardous.
The good news is that there are plenty of options companies can choose to better their receipt practices and replace outdated, wasteful, toxic items with innovative solutions.
My organization, Green America, is a national non-profit group that uses economic action to address environmental and social problems. Our Skip the Slip campaign is raising awareness about receipt impacts and offering steps people can take to resolve these issues. The goal is to see all companies offer three receipt choices to meet each customer’s individual preference: an option for no receipt, a digital option, and a non-toxic, recyclable paper option. Skip the Slip’s new report reveals the effects of receipts and lays out the many existing solutions for companies to achieve receipt practices that are gentler on the planet and protect employee and customer health. Access the full report and take action here!
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign has been urging retailers to eliminate harmful chemicals like BPA and BPS in receipt paper and other products. In recent years, both Best Buy and Trader Joe’s have adopted policies to eliminate bisphenol chemicals in receipt paper. Earlier this year, the campaign co-released a report that found bisphenol chemicals in receipt paper used by top retailers including Target.
Recently, green blogger Leah Segedie of Mamavation launched a petition urging Target to phase out these receipts. We hope Target will step up and join Best Buy and Trader Joe’s to address toxic receipts.
You can start taking action today with these simple steps:
- At the start of a transaction, let the cashier know you don’t want a paper receipt, and feel free to remind them toward the end.
- If you must take a receipt, fold the receipt with the printed side facing in—this should lessen your exposure since the back of thermal paper is often not coated.
- Request digital receipts, even for gift receipts (you can always forward the digital copy to your loved one after you’ve given them their gift in case they need to return or exchange).
- Urge companies you patronize to adopt digital receipt options and non-toxic receipt paper. You can advocate in person or ask via social media or email. A number of retailers also have comment boxes located in-store.
- Be mindful of the products you purchase since everything we buy has an impact on the planet. And the fewer purchases we make, the fewer receipts to reject.
- Take the pledge to Skip the Slip here to join thousands of people urging companies to fix their receipt practices.