Eco Tip: Don't Recycle Thermal Paper Receipts

Marsha Low, Weavers Way Environment Committee

If you’re someone who tries to recycle everything, you might toss cash-register receipts in the recycling bin along with other paper. But most receipts are printed on thermal paper that requires coatings of the chemical BPA (Bisphenol A) or BPS (Bisphenol S) for the numbers to appear. BPA is a hormone disruptor that poses greatest risk to pregnant women, infants, and children; in addition, it has been linked to the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and liver toxicity. Bisphenol S has been shown to have similar effects. So if thermal paper gets recycled with other kinds of paper, it can end up in products like shopping bags, paper towels, or even toilet paper — a scary thought, indeed, since BPA can be absorbed through the skin.

So what to do, besides tossing these thermal paper receipts into the trash? For one, you could opt out of getting a sales receipt by letting the clerk know you don’t want one. Or if you really need the receipt, you could request to have it emailed to you, as many businesses, including Weavers Way, now offer to do.

What about Weavers Way receipts? Thankfully, they are “phenol-free,” meaning they contain no BPA or BPS. Purchasing Manager Norman Weiss reports that the substitute used to coat them is supposedly a form of Vitamin C, but the boxes don’t state exactly. These receipts should be safe to handle and recycle, but to reduce waste, the more we can email receipts, the better.