- Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of recycling Q&A tips from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve run a few stories of late on the importance of recycling right, the dangers of “wish recycling” and reminding folks of the old adage, “When in doubt, throw it out!”
So, it’s good to see the phrasing in today’s Q&A. Instead of just putting receipts in the bin and “wish recycling,” people are asking the right questions.
Way to go, Kane County!
Q: Hi! Can thermal paper receipts be recycled or should I put them in the garbage?
A: Good question!
Here’s my longish answer:
Firstly … Some Background
In general, most receipts these days are made of thermal paper, which uses heat to imprint the receipt rather than ink. The plastic component that makes this possible is called bisphenol A.
Thermal Receipts Are NOT Recyclable or Compostable
Thermal receipts do not pulp the same as other paper, so they are NOT actually recyclable and need to go in the trash. Furthermore, BPA remains in the fibers, which we do not want in recycled paper products like paper towels or tissue boxes!
For that very reason, they cannot be composted or burned either, because both processes release BPA into the atmosphere — soil or air.
Landfills are the safest place for them.
Stay Calm and Recycle On
I’m sure many of you are groaning that this is “yet another thing I can’t recycle,” but the reason I share these tips is so that we can all get better at recycling.
My hope is that rather than throwing your hands up in despair, you will be happy about the improvements you are making and the positive change you are bringing into the world!
With the aim of further easing your pain, I have to quote my favorite advice column hero, Mr. Green of the Sierra Club magazine:
“Trashing receipts is not the gravest of sins,” he said, “since they amount to a tiny fraction of all paper consumed, according to industry sources.”
Check out Ellen Degeneres’ take on “The Never-Ending Receipt.”
Mr. Green also advises going paperless, which is of course the best practice.
“Opt out of getting a sales receipt in the first place, or ask the clerk to email it to you,” he said. “Speaking of clerks, they may be in more danger from BPA than the rest of us because they constantly handle thermal paper. By ditching the receipt, you’ll do yourself, the planet, and that hardworking sales clerk a favor.”
Many stores ask if you want your receipt or not, but if they don’t ask, just say that you please do not need/want a receipt! Especially if they are the mile-long coupon laden drug store receipts!
This is a growing edge for me personally, a gal who has always “balanced my accounts” at the end of the week by checking the statement against the receipts.
Also sometimes I actually do need a receipt for reimbursement if it is a work-related purchase.
But I am making a commitment today after the research I just did on this question, to go without receipts whenever possible!
P.S. For Retailers
There are BPA-free receipt roll options out there if you are concerned about the exposure to your employees!
Read More Recycling Q&A Articles!
- Recycling Q&A: What Should I Do With K-Cups?
- Recycling Q&A: Can I Recycle Milk, Juice And Soup Cartons? (Yes!)
- Recycling Q&A: How About Recycling Spray Or Pump Tops?
- Recycling Q&A: Can I Put Hangers In My Recycling Bin?
- Recycling Q&A: Can I Recycle Boxes For Frozen Foods? (Sadly, No!)
- Recycling Q&A: Caps on Containers? Household Batteries On The Curb?
- Recycling Q&A: Unscrewing the Mystery of Mason Jars And Metal Lids
- Recycling Q&A: Little Bits of Paper? Envelope Windows? Jam Jars With Metal Lids?
- Recycling Q&A: Why Can’t I Put Recyclables In Plastic Garbage Bags?
- Recycling Q&A: Aargh! I’m Surrounded By Plastics!
- Recycling Q&A: What Should I Do With Propane Tanks?