Abolish paper receipts?

Now that I use reusable shopping bags without fail (thanks in part to a state-wide ban on disposable plastic shopping bags), I’ve become more aware of the number of paper cash register receipts I get as these tend to accumulate in the bags over time. 

It’s a lot of paper waste considering in most of the cases these receipts are a record I simply don’t need. 

While some types of cash register receipts can be recycled, thermal receipt paper cannot be because of its chemical content. Recycling is the last of the green 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) for a reason anyway as it does take energy to recycle paper and paper recycling isn’t always an entirely environmentally friendly process. 

Observing the first of the 3R’s – Reduce – can’t we just finally do away with paper receipts for the most part and shift to electronic ones in instances where they are required? For purchases we make via EFT or credit card; we have a record anyway in the form of our bank and credit card statements.

Houston Neal from Software Advice wrote to me today about paper receipts and is running a poll on the issue:

“We think paper receipts are a wasteful vestige of the last millennium. There is no reason – legal or otherwise – why consumers or retailers need paper receipts. Electronic receipts are completely valid and far more efficient. Not to mention, the production of paper receipts do some real damage to our environment.”

Some quick stats about paper receipts from Houston’s post on the topic.

– It takes approximately 19,000 gallons of water to produce a single ton of paper.
– Approximately 2,278 lbs of trash is produced while producing a single ton of receipt paper.
– The amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated through the production of a ton of receipt paper is equivalent to the amount of exhaust a car emits while driving for an entire year.

If you’re interested in participating in Houston’s poll and reading more about paper vs. electronic receipts, check out his blog entry “Please Kill The Paper Receipt” here