How To Recycle Receipts {Explained!}

By Rebekah Pierce

Are you one of those people who saves every receipt, just in case you might need it someday?  When tax time rolls around, this is a smart choice. You’re not alone, either – many people save their receipts. But what do you do with all those receipts once you’ve saved them? Here are some ways to recycle them.

Are Receipts Biodegradable?

One of the most common types of waste that people generate on a daily basis are receipts. 

From grocery stores to restaurants to online purchases, it seems like everywhere we go, we end up with a little piece of paper that we then throw away. And that’s what most people regard receipts as – just tiny bits of paper.

But what many people don’t realize is that receipts are actually made from a type of plastic called thermoplastic. Thermoplastic is a type of material that is not biodegradable, which means that it will not decompose over time. This means that every time we throw away a receipt, we’re actually adding to the world’s growing problem of plastic pollution.

So what can be done about this? One solution is to simply stop using receipts. Many stores are now switching to paperless options that have your receipt sent to your phone or email instead of being printed.

Of course, you can also recycle your old receipts, too – more info on this below!

What Do You Do With Paper Receipts?

Sadly, most paper receipts are not recyclable because they are printed on a unique type of paper named thermal paper, which has the chemical bisphenol-A (or sometimes bisphenol S) also known as BPA

This chemical is not easy to remove from the paper during the recycling process, and throwing your receipts in with the rest of your recycling only guarantees that all of the items you’ve recycled will be thrown into the landfill.

Because of this, the best way to get rid of your paper receipts is to throw them into the trash.

THere is on exception to this, and that is if your paper receipts were printed on actual paper. This is rare nowadays – ordinary paper receipts are hardly ever used. You can tell if your paper is thermal paper or “old-fashioned” paper by scratching the paper with your fingernail. If a dark line appears, it’s thermal paper. 

THermal paper uses heat from a printhead to make numbers and letters appear-  there’s no actual ink involved. The chemicals from the receipts transfer to everything, including your hands and the groceries in your shopping bag. 93% of all receipts contain BPA or BPS.

These are dangerous chemicals that are hormone disruptors, causing endocrine and reproductive abilities. Always wash your hands after handling a receipt – and don’t throw them into hre recycling. You also can’t burn or compost old paper receipts, since these techniques will put you into even closer contact with the chemicals.

Can Cash Register Receipts Be Recycled?

The next time you go to the store, take a close look at your receipt. Chances are it’s made of paper that’s coated with a thin layer of thermal paper. This special paper is designed to be heat-sensitive, so it produces a dark image when it comes into contact with a printing head. 

Unfortunately, this type of paper is not recyclable. The coating is made of chemicals that can contaminate other paper products, and the thin layer of paper makes it difficult to separate from other recyclables. 

As a result, cash register receipts often end up in the garbage. If you require a paper trail for business or tax purposes, throw them out when you’re done storing them. If you’re comfortable doing so, ask the retailers you work with to switch to BPA or BPS-free thermal paper. 

You can actually buy thermal paper that does not have these phenol developers (BPA and BPS chemicals). Although it’s more expensive, it’s more eco-friendly. 

If there’s an option to do so, have receipts be emailed to you rather than printed. You’ll avoid chemical exposure and decrease demand for paper products that are incredibly wasteful.

However, there are some companies that are working on alternatives. 

Don’t be afraid to check with your local recycling center to see if thermal paper is accepted or needs to be trashed. Every local recycling facility is different, so it’s worth it to do your due diligence and find out what is and is not accepted. 

Some communities have special receipt take-back programs. Check with your local department of public works to see if this is an option where you live. 

Finally, know that there are other alternatives to receiving receipts. You can manually track purchases using a budget app, for instance, which will allow you to forego any need for a receipt.

Here’s a video with more information on how to get rid of receipt paper:

How Can I Reuse Receipt Paper?

Have you ever wondered what to do with all those paper receipts piling up in your wallet or purse? If you’re looking for ways to reduce paper waste, then reusing receipt paper is a great option. Here are a few ideas on how you can put those old receipts to good use:

  • Use them as scrap paper for jotting down notes.
  • Cut them up and use them as bookmarks.
  • Crumple them up and use them as packing material when shipping items.
  • Use them to make party banners. 
  • Use them to alter paper patterns for sewing. 
  • Cut the pieces up and use them to write down your shopping lists.

So the next time you’re about to throw away a receipt, think twice and see if there’s a way you can reuse it. There are lots of ways you can reuse receipt paper – just make sure you always remember to wash your hands after working with it, and don’t use it for anything you plan to eat.

Have you tried any of these tips for recycling receipts? If not, what’s stopping you? With Earth Day coming up, there’s no time like the present to start reducing your environmental impact by recycling as much as possible. These simple tips can make a big difference, so give them a try today!

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