I recently came across an article published on Wired about the 11 billion receipts printed every year in the UK being an environmental nightmare. For someone who makes sure the recycling is separated, this caught my attention.
Whenever I make a purchase in a supermarket, I always request a receipt and I’m sure I’m not the only one. There are quite a few stores that ask whether you would like a receipt and even giving you the option of having your receipt emailed to you. These options make the consumer ask the question; do I really need a receipt?
I’ve never had to refer back to receipt after I’ve checked to ensure my points have been added on and they end up all crumpled in the receipt graveyard that is my handbag. Every few months or so, I have a clear out. I scribble out the bank and loyalty card details and discard them in the recycling bin. Something else that didn’t go to landfill, little tick for me.
But it’s not a tick at all. Apparently, they can’t be recycled!
It turns out the vast majority of supermarket receipts and some small shops are printed on a special kind of paper called thermal paper, they are anything but environmentally friendly and the best place for them is landfill. Thermal paper, just like coffee cups, can’t be recycled because they contain more than one material.
They’re coated in a substance which reacts with the printer head leaving our shopping list, card details, date, time etc on the paper. These substances are called BPA and BPS and after some research, they have been banned from other products such as toddler cups because they are dangerous when ingested in large amounts and can even be absorbed through the skin. Which begs the question, why are stores still using this paper?
With alternatives like having the receipt emailed to you is a great option but giving away your information, even if it’s an email address, can make us nervous because we have no idea if we’re going to get bombarded with junk email from the company or what they’ll do with our information. Having a receipt is protection for the consumer. If your purchase is faulty or damaged, there’s more chance of the store exchanging the item or refunding your money with a valid receipt. With no receipt, you’ll be lucky if you get store credit.
If the use of this paper for this purpose is to cease, the change will need to come from top. Once legislation is been passed, only then will this force processes and mindsets to change, until then it will keep happening.
This has really made me think how much I really need a receipt. In most places, you don’t get a choice as to whether you get a receipt or not but some businesses do give you the choice.
The question to ask yourself; do I really need that receipt?