Why you shouldn’t recycle receipts

Come again?? Isn’t recycling all the rage now? Wasn’t it supposed to be good to recycle? Well, yes, it is, and you should still try to recycle as much as you can.

Just not receipts.

Thing is, receipts are actually recyclable. You could recycle them with your other papers, or compost them. But here is why you shouldn’t.

Most receipts are BPA-coated

Thermal paper receipts are BPA-coated, and the amount is sheer crazy! Bisphenol A (BPA) is a plastic component that has a similar effect on the body as estrogen and is linked to cancer, pre-mature puberty, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and more. And bad news is that it can be absorbed by mere dermal exposure.

When people talk about polycarbonate bottles, they talk about nanogram quantities of BPA [leaching out]. The average cash register receipt that’s out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA.” – John C. Warner (Science News)

Only touching a receipt for five seconds will transfer a significant amount of BPA to your finger. Say, a cashier who has to repeatedly touch these kinds of receipts, will end up with about 71 micrograms of BPA after a 10 hour shift.

So it’s better to just avoid receipts all together. Go digital, baby!

Burn, baby, burn!

Recycling BPA-coated receipts will contaminate the recycled paper. Composting them is even worse, because this could release BPA to surface waters! All of this would increase human exposure to BPA.

To be fair, not all receipts are BPA-coated. However, there is no way of finding out without taking the receipt to a lab. So there really is no way to separate the wheat from the chaff for a John or Jane.

So the sure-fire way of disposing receipts is to burn them (poor pun intended). If you have a fireplace, perfect. Update 2016-11-28: Burning receipts releases BPA into the air! If you don’t, well, best hope your local waste management facility incinerates the trash rather than landfill it. You can always give them a call and ask though 😉. If they only landfill, well, at least the BPA will end up in a pile that is toxic anyway, yay 😒…


  1. The bank machine statements (Germany): is that the same? they feel “plasticy” to me and I wonder to burn (fireplace) or recycle (Gelber Sack) or Paper Container ? Thank you and I hope you dont my question here but it seems related..;)

    • Hm, we have been downloading our bank statements for at least 5 years, so I am not sure to be honest. You should contact your bank and ask whether or not the paper they use is BPA-free. If they are, great! If they are not, they are general garbage (Restmüll).

  2. Yes yes yes! This one is so hard. If possible, I usually refuse receipts at the store with a simple “I don’t need a receipt, thanks!” said with a smile. Hopefully an encouragement to get them to switch to emailed. (But probably not 🙂

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  4. Thanks for this interesting article! What do you suggest doing with receipts ultimately? If you refuse them in a shop, they just go straight into the bin. The only way I can think of to avoid them completely is to use contactless payment (available widely in the UK) because it only prints the merchant’s copy automatically.

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