SKIP THE SLIP – Together, we can protect the world’s most vulnerable people, our grandchildren and our planet.
BY BETH PORTER
We may not think much about receipts, but these little slips of paper pose a big threat to our health and the environment. Every year, US receipt production consumes nearly 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons of water. This generates 686 million pounds of waste and emits 12 billion pounds of CO2. Extraction and use of these resources take a toll on the climate, from the emissions that are released during production to the piles of waste at disposal. A reminder that we need to continue replacing outdated, wasteful items with innovative solutions.
“…nearly 90 percent of human exposure to BPS comes from thermal paper receipts coated with the substance.”
Additionally, thermal receipt paper is typically coated with Bisphenol A (BPA) or a similar chemical, BPS, which allows print to be visible when heat is applied to the paper. Bisphenols transfer from the receipt to anything it touches, including our hands where they are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. These chemicals are shown to impact fetal development and are linked to reproductive impairment, type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions, and other health concerns.
Employees are at great risk than shoppers for contact with the toxic chemicals, as the Center for Disease Control reports that workers who have regular contact with receipts have over 30 percent more BPA found in their bodies. With growing concern from customers surrounding BPA, companies have sought out “non-BPA” paper, but the typical replacement is BPS, a similar chemical which research indicates has similarly detrimental effects. According to research published in Environmental Science Technology, nearly 90 percent of human exposure to BPS comes from thermal paper receipts coated with the substance.
This makes receipts not recyclable. When well-intentioned people try to recycle thermal paper coated with bisphenols, it can contaminate other recycled fiber.
Fortunately, many solutions from digital receipts to phenol-free paper exist, but we need to urge more retailers to offer them. That’s why Green America launched Skip the Slip, a campaign to raise awareness about how we can tackle these issues surrounding receipts.
Skip the Slip highlights cost-effective digital and non-toxic solutions for retailers to protect their employees and customers, and reduce their impacts on the environment, while reducing fraud and ensuring efficient transactions. Green America sees these goals being achieved through a variety of solutions and recognize that every company, from family-owned, local food trucks to large corporations with thousands of stores, will have different needs for receipts based on available technology and customer preference. Our goals are to see retailers offer digital receipts and to use better paper for customers who need a paper slip.
Currently, we are urging CVS, one of the largest retailers in the country and a company infamous for its long receipts, to improve its receipt practices by offering phenol-free receipt paper and making its digital receipt option more accessible for customers. Visit www.greenamerica.org/cvs to ask the pharmacy to make positive changes!
Other ways to take action to avoid these impacts include:
- When you’re paying, make sure to ask your cashier not to print you a receipt.
- If you need a paper receipt, fold the printed side and handle only the non-printed side in to curb chances of exposure to bisphenols.
- Ask stores you patronize to offer digital receipts and to use phenol-free paper.
By voicing concerns on toxins and waste, we not only encourage companies to address receipts, but to also target other problem areas in their stores. Join Green America today in telling businesses that sustainable choices matter and their decisions have an impact on our health and environment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – BETH PORTER
Beth Porter is Green America’s Climate & Recycling Director. She leads campaigns identifying the waste of resources and energy in varying sectors and proposes solutions. She is also the author of the book “Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine: Sorting Out the Recycling System.”