Updated On 07/10/2018 | Originally Published On 07/18/2015
Dear Recyclebank: Can I recycle my receipts? Most of them are thermal paper. If not, what can I do with them instead? –Jesse M.
Dear Jesse: The most common type of receipt paper is thermal paper. This slightly shiny, smooth paper contains chemicals that allow printing via heat transfer, rather than with ink, but it also poses health concerns. One of chemicals thermal paper relies on is bisphenol A (BPA), which is a health concern due to studies indicating that BPA is a “reproductive, developmental, and systemic toxicant in animal studies” and may disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates hormones. 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 United States and Canada.
Because BPA may be tough to remove during the paper-recycling process, and can find its way into new recycled paper products, many areas require you to keep thermal paper out of your recycle. Check with your local waste hauler to see if they have rules about it, but if in doubt, 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 risks and issues of thermal paper 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.