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Because You Asked: Can I Recycle Receipts Made of Thermal Paper?

By Recyclebank |

There’s more than one reason to be careful with your receipts, but complications with recycling thermal paper are a big one. 


Dear Recyclebank,

Can I recycle my receipts? Most of them are thermal paper. If not, what can I do with it instead?

-Jesse M.

Dear Jesse,

Thermal paper, the slightly shiny paper you’ll see most often in the form of receipts, contains chemicals that allow printing to happen through heat transfer, rather than with ink. One of chemicals thermal paper relies on is bisphenol A, or BPA, which has caused health concerns due to studies indicating that it is a “reproductive, developmental, and systemic toxicant in animal studies” and may disrupt the endocrine system. Yet thermal paper is the most common paper used for receipt printing nowadays. A 2011 study found that 94 percent of receipts tested contained BPA, and that receipts alone contributed an estimated 33.5 tons of BPA to the environment every year in the U.S. and Canada.

Because BPA may be tough to remove during the paper recycling process, and can find its way into new recycled paper products, some areas (such as Los Angeles) recommend or require that you don’t recycle thermal paper. Check with your local waste hauler to see if they have rules about it, but generally, we recommend that you keep your receipts out of the recycling bin.

Try to reduce the number of receipts that you collect in the first place. If paperless e-receipts are an option, consider having one emailed to you instead of getting a printout. Otherwise, ask your cashier if you can forgo the receipt entirely, then track the purchase manually or with a mobile app for your budgeting. If you’re a regular at a local business, you may even want to explain the situation and ask if traditional receipt paper and ink would be a workable option for them.

And if you still wind up with thermal paper receipts? Trash them if your hauler doesn’t accept them. If you’re concerned about privacy and identity theft, shred them, and look into your hauler’s rules about recycling shredded paper.

SOURCES
1800Recycling.com
LATimes.com
MayoClinic.org
NYTimes.com
PPRC.org
WAToxics.org

Does it surprise you to learn there’s BPA in many of your receipts? How do you handle your receipts? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Robert S. 3 months ago
    Hadn't thought about the properties of receipts before. Will definitely be more cognizant in the future.
  • Diane M. 3 months ago
    Why did stores switch to thermal receipts? In the "old days" our receipts were printed on regular paper with ink. The other big problem with the thermal receipts is that they fade, and if they're exposed to heat, they become illegible. I keep receipts for tax purposes, and they are so fragile. I scan the the next year for permanent storage, but sometimes that's too long to wait.
  • Barbara Q. 7 months ago
    Wish more stores would offer e-receipts. I have a nearly paperless office/home. Anything printed gets scanned and then recycled. I use a blackout marker for sensitive information. I can recycle thermal paper where I live so that helps. Probably with thermal receipts, the ink disappears. If you are keeping receipts for taxes, you should copy them before the ink is gone. Blank paper won't help in an audit.
  • Rose D. 9 months ago
    BPA causes cancer. Yet thermal paper is still the most common paper used for receipt printing! This needs to change!
    My partner and I are working on a brand new solution to this problem. Please help us by filling out this anonymous survey so we can get a healthier alternative to paper receipts in stores near you. www.surveymonkey.com/r/PFPJRLQ
  • wayne w. 11 months ago
    I need my paper receipts to verify tax information.
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