The holiday season is upon us.
As we dive into our annual shopping, there’s one little thing many of us turn a blind eye to: the massive amount of paper receipts we collect throughout the season. (Although, if you shop at CVS, you might already know those paper receipts aren’t so little after all.)
These unnecessary paper slips come with costs.
It’s no surprise that paper receipts are wasteful, but many don’t know that they’re also a risk to human health. Thermal paper receipts are often coated with BPA, a known endocrine disruptor. BPA exposure is linked to increased risk of prostate and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, childhood obesity, autism, and neurological problems.
Many retailers claim to offer “BPA-free receipts.” Those use a similar substitute known as BPS, which is unfortunately just as toxic as BPA. According to the Environmental Science and Technology study, 81 percent of Americans have toxic chemicals, including BPS, in their urine — and most of it comes from paper receipts.
During this busy season, cashiers face an even higher risk, as they deal with an even greater number of receipts every single day.
A study by the Ecology Center found that cashiers that are exposed to paper receipts on a daily basis have 30 percent more BPA in their bodies than others. Most retail workers aren’t informed by their employer about the risks and therefore don’t take precautionary measures, such as wearing gloves.
Thermal paper receipts also have a significant impact on the environment. In the U.S. alone, they require nearly 10 million trees, 21 billion gallons of water, and 250 gallons of oil every single year. On top of that, due to their chemical coating, these paper slips aren’t recyclable, since they could contaminate other paper products in the recycling bin.
As if that weren’t enough, paper receipts significantly contribute to climate change: The greenhouse gases released from their production to disposal are equivalent to 1 million cars on the road.
Offering digital receipts should be the default in 2018.
The European commission has already issued a ban of BPA in thermal paper to begin in 2020. If the U.S. government won’t take action to ban these dangerous chemicals from receipts, then breaking the habit of taking toxic paper receipts would be the one of the best gifts we can give our planet — and ourselves — this holiday shopping season.
If you’re wondering how to make this gift a reality, here are four easy steps:
• Reduce your purchases as much as you can to curb consumption. When you do make a purchase, ask to opt-out of paper receipts during transactions.
• If you must take a receipt, fold it with the printed side facing inward. This lessens exposure, since the back of thermal paper is often not coated.
• Encourage your local retailers to switch to digital or non-toxic paper receipts. There’s a range of available alternatives on the market, including vitamin-C based ink.
• For immediate action, you can sign a petition urging retailers such as CVS to skip the slip at salsalabs.org/cvsskiptheslip.
Your family, community, and the planet count on you to spread awareness on the issue. Skip the slip this holiday season and don’t forget to make it your New Year’s resolution, too.
Ayate Temsamani is a Climate Fellow at Green America. (Distributed by OtherWords.org.)