Should We Ban Paper Receipts?

Have you ever gone to a store for, say, a pack of gum, andbeen rather taken aback when the cashier handed you a foot-long paper receipt? (Yes, I’m looking at you, CVS.) After all, in this modern digital age of email and e-bills, why not save a forest or two by replacing paper receipts with electronic ones?

That’s what California Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) has in mind with a bill he’s introduced.Assembly Bill 161would prohibit stores, restaurants and other businesses in the state from providing paper receipts unless customers request them.

California has already taken big steps forward in protecting wildlife and the environment by becoming the first U.S. state to ban stores from using plastic bags and restaurants from using plastic straws. If Ting’s bill becomes law, in 2022 California will also become the first state to ban automatic paper receipts.

Why Banning Paper Receipts Makes Sense

The production of paper receipts in the United States each year requires 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons of water, according to a May 2018 report by the consumer advocacy nonprofit, Green America. The manufacturing process produces 12 billion pounds of carbon emissions and 686 million pounds of waste.

Not only would banning paper receipts help save trees and water and reduce pollution, but it would also prevent the receipts from ending up in landfills. As Ting pointed out in a news conference announcing A.B. 161, many people have the mistaken belief that all paper receipts can be recycled. “Guess what? They can’t,” he said.

In fact, about 93 percent of all receipt paper contains the chemicals BPA and BPS, which makes it ineligible for recycling, according to the Green America report. Our bodies also absorb these endocrine-disrupting chemicals when we touch the receipts, so they have the potential to cause developmental and neurological harm to our health.

“As of 2014, nearly 81 percent of Americans were shown to have detectable levels of BPS in their urine, and nearly 90 percent of human exposure to BPS comes from thermal paper receipts coated with the substance,” the report states.

Businesses that don’t comply with the new law would receive two warnings and then be fined up to $300 a year.

A potential downside of this ban would be if customers had to provide an email address to receive an electronic receipt. They could simply request a paper receipt, if they didn’t want their privacy invaded, and perhaps new technology may be able to provide e-receipts without customers having to give out any personal information.

Take Action

If you think banning paper receipts is a good idea, please sign and share this petition urging California lawmakers to pass A.B. 161. If you live in another state, contact your representatives and suggest they enact a similar law.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youll find Care2s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Photo credit: @PhilTing/Twitter


Leanne K
Leanne K2 months ago

It surprises me there isnt concern for cashiers being voiced by unions

Helen C
Helen C2 months ago

some yes, some no.... not sure yet.

RONALD Walker3 months ago

Right now I am not taking any more paper receipts. I am not getting any news from paper. Sometimes I do print out a news article. No more paper magazine! As for books. I am doing the same thing. Hey, I can get a library book online also. Now more paper can be used for plastic. I don't want to sound consenting. But paper can be recycled.

bob P
robert Petermann3 months ago

Did someone fact check trees and water usage?

Beryl Ludwig
Beryl L3 months ago

I must agree with some of the other people who mentioned that the security of computers today is not ready to handle this function . I also wonder about having the proof of purchase in your hand like one lady says.

Beryl Ludwig
Beryl L3 months ago

You are so right about CVS giving foot long receipts Laura. Just to get two prescriptions my husband came home with a foot-and-a-half long receipt with all these stupid coupons but I would never use anyways. And thanks for the info about all receipts not being recyclable. I just wonder how you tell which ones aren't and which ones are. Thank you for the excellent article. Petition sign thank you

Jan K
Jan S3 months ago

Thanks very much

Marija M
Marija M3 months ago

we do not have paper receipts in our country for some years...

Jessica C
Jessica C3 months ago

save trees

Henry M
Henry M3 months ago

These have BPA in them? That is scary.