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If you’re like me, when it comes to recycling, you want to do the right thing, but you don’t always know what’s acceptable and what’s not.
One of those questions that I’ve always had in the back of my mind when getting back from the grocery store is whether or not receipts are recyclable.
To be on the safe side, for the longest time, I simply threw these away. Fortunately (depending how you look at it), my wife is a big proponent of recycling, so at some point, I finally decided to do the research to figure it out once and for all.
What Are Store Receipts Made Of?
There are two common types of receipts you’re likely to encounter when shopping at a local store: traditional paper and ink, and thermal paper. Thermal paper is usually recognizable by its glossy appearance.
The receipts that are spit out by the cash registers at most stores use thermal paper, which is a specialty paper that darkens when heat is applied. This process doesn’t involve ink, but instead relies on a thin coating of chemical dyes.
The chemical coating is the main point of concern when it comes to whether or not it is safe to recycle receipts.
Can You Recycle Store Receipts?
This is where it gets tricky. Whether or not a receipt is recyclable depends on the material that it’s made of and whether or not a chemical coating has been applied to it.
Traditional paper and ink receipts can typically be recycled, while thermal paper typically cannot be recycled. To be on the safe side, check with your local recycling company to be sure in either scenario.
Why Isn’t Thermal Paper Recyclable?
The problem with thermal paper lies in its coating, which contains bisphenol A (BPA), which you’ve probably seen on various labels for “BPA-Free” items, such as water bottles. BPA is a commonly used, industrial chemical, which is thought to have a harmful effect on the health of humans and animals.
Historically, BPA has been used to harden plastics and could be found on the lining of cans, water bottles, and even baby bottles. Due to the controversy surrounding this chemical, many manufacturers have moved away from using it on their products, which is why you see so many “BPA Free” labels these days.
As it’s difficult to remove this chemical coating during the recycling process, it’s best to keep it separate from your bin of recyclable items.
What Should I Do with My Store Receipts?
If you’re unsure which type of material your receipts are made of, or you know that your receipts are made of thermal paper, you have two options.
Option 1 – This isn’t the most ideal solution, but the first option is to simply throw away your receipts. This used to be the only realistic option, but thanks to advances in technology, we now have a good alternative.
Option 2 – In our ever-evolving world of technology, we now have an environmentally-friendly option for these receipts, which is to simply not have them printed at all. Many stores now offer digital-only receipts, which takes care of the problem altogether. This should become a popular option in the future.
Unfortunately, most store receipts are made of thermal paper, and as noted above, these are not recyclable. However, with advances in technology, less and less receipts should end of in the landfill.
If you’re researching this topic, it’s clear that you’re concerned about protecting the environment. Whether you choose option #1 or option #2 above, either is a better choice than recycling your receipts, potentially leading to BPA making its way on to other items in the future.