*For updated impacts and explained methodology, please see our June 2019 revised report here.
May 10, 2018//Washington DC// Nearly every U.S. consumer handles a dozen paper receipts every week, and retail store employees may touch thousands in the same time. But few are aware of the toxic nature of the paper receipts, which utilize Bisphenol-A (BPA) or Bisphenol-S (BPS). Even fewer know of the major environmental and climate harms linked to the receipts, which are an easily avoided now that non-BPA receipts and digital sales confirmations are readily available, according to a new report from Green America.
Titled “Skip the Slip,” the new Green America analysis available online at https://greenamerica.org/report-sts* finds:
- Only one-third of retailers have adopted digital options, and the vast majority of retailers issuing paper-based receipts continue to use papers with BPA or BPS coatings. Among the leaders identified in the report as having moved away from BPA/BPS receipts are Apple, Best Buy, GNC Live Well and Lidl Grocery. Laggards cited in the report as still using traditional paper receipts are Family Dollar, Petco, Target, TJ Maxx/Marshalls, Walgreens and Walmart. The report also finds that several companies, including CVS and Whole Foods offer digital receipts, but primarily give customers BPA or BPS receipts.
- An estimated 93 percent of paper receipts are coated with Bisphenol-A (BPA) or Bisphenol-S (BPS), known endocrine-disruptors. Paper receipts coated with BPA contain between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. The total mass of BPA on a receipt is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount of BPA found in a can of food or baby formula, or in plastic baby bottles. Retail employees are at the greatest risk, as studies show workers who have regular contact with receipts have over 30 percent more BPA or BPS found in their bodies, and many employees may exceed the European Union’s limit for safe amount of BPA to absorb in a day.
- In the United States, paper receipt production uses over 3 million trees, 9 billion gallons of water, and emits 4 billion pounds of CO2 each year. If just one company as large as Walgreens – with nearly six million customers every day – ends the use of paper receipts, over 55,000 trees and 58.8 million gallons of water are saved, and 17.6 million pounds of CO2 will be prevented from entering the atmosphere. [Impacts updated June 2019 - please see recent report edition here]
- Digital receipts provide a relatively low environmental impact. Each e-receipt is estimated to have a footprint of 4 grams of carbon dioxide. Since a mature tree can absorb roughly 21,772 grams of carbon dioxide each year, by keeping trees in the forests rather than using them for paper receipts, one tree can accommodate the emissions of over 5,443 digital receipt emails.
“The data are clear: Paper receipts coated in toxic chemicals pose risks to our health and have huge environmental impacts,” said Green America’s climate and recycling program director, Beth Porter. “That’s why Green America is advocating for a wider use of paperless solutions, while also ensuring recyclable, phenol-free paper will be used for customers who still request a paper receipt.”
The Skip the Slip report 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 increasing sales.
"Most consumers and retail cashiers would be shocked to learn that the seemingly innocent receipt paper they handle day in and day out can be laden with toxic chemicals," said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. "These chemicals don't just stay on the paper but can make their ways into our bodies just from handling the receipt paper. Retailers should move swiftly to eliminate these harmful chemicals and transition to safer options like e-receipts."
"In response to a growing, national wave of concern and customer backlash about single-use and non-recyclable materials, more and more companies are demonstrating their leadership by beginning to make changes that reduce waste," said Joshua Martin of the Environmental Paper Network. "Based on the threat they pose to public health and the readily available alternatives, offering non-toxic and mostly digital receipts should be among the first steps on every retailer's immediate action plan. By reducing an unnecessary and non-recyclable use of paper, retailers and their customers are taking action to reduce the pressure on the world's forests resulting from today's rising global paper consumption."
A related infographic highlighting the costs of paper-based receipts coated in BPA and BPS is available https://www.greenamerica.org/report-skip-the-slip.
Consumers and employees who are concerned about the impacts of paper-based receipts and associated toxins can take action to encourage retailers to move to digital and non-toxic options here.
About the Groups
Green America is the nation's leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides economic strategies and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. http://www.GreenAmerica.org
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families fights for strong chemical policy, works with retailers to phase out hazardous chemicals and transform the marketplace, and educates the public about ways to protect our families from toxic chemicals. https://saferchemicals.org/
The Environmental Paper Network (EPN) is a world-wide network of over 140 civil society organizations working together towards the Global Paper Vision. This Vision expresses our common goal to create transformational change in the pulp and paper industry and wider society, so that paper production and use contributes to a clean, healthy, just and sustainable future for life on earth. http://environmentalpaper.org/