Digital Receipts Gain Momentum
Compared to newspapers, magazines and junk mail, retail sales receipts may seem inconsequential in their use of trees and their footprint on the environment. Yet, getting and handling that tabulation of a sale is a health hazard that contributes to landfills. Certainly, some receipts are required for tax records and product returns, but the vast majority serve no future purpose; there’s also a better and safer option than paper.
Treehugger.com reports the annual waste from receipts in the U.S. totals 686 million pounds, and that skipping receipts would save 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 1 million cars on the road. The problem is getting worse as many retail outlets include special offers and other promotional information on receipts, making them longer and the corresponding amount of paper used greater.
The Ecology Center, an educational nonprofit located in San Juan Capistrano, California, estimates that 93 percent of paper receipts are coated with Bisphenol-A (BPA) or Bisphenol- S (BPS), endocrine disrupters that are used as color developers to help make the receipts more legible. However, the presence of either makes them ineligible for recycling.
According to Green America (GreenAmerica.org), BPA that can be “absorbed into our bodies through our hands in mere seconds,” can impact fetal development and “is linked to reproductive impairment, Type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions and other health concerns.” Employees that regularly handle receipts have 30 percent more BPA or BPS in their bodies.
In January, California Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation (AB 161) nicknamed “skip the slip”, which would require retailers to offer digital receipts to customers. If it passes, it will be the first such law in the country.