#SkiptheSlip: An Earth-Friendly Way to Improve Post-Sale Engagement with Shoppers

Image courtesy of iStock

Image courtesy of iStock

Looking around, it is no secret that our world has gone digital. It seems almost daily that we are adopting new technologies that simplify our lives. Because of this, it is hard to believe that our environment could be declining at such a rapid pace. It is even harder to believe that tiny pieces of paper could be taking such a heavy toll.

Every year in the United States receipt production uses over 3 million trees, 9 billion gallons of water, 4 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, and 302 million pounds of solid waste from production and disposal according to Green America. It is estimated that the United States burns through 256,300 metric tons of POS thermal paper each year with an expected annual growth of 2.3 percent through 2025. Popular pharmacy retailer CVS alone goes through 2.5 million pounds of receipt paper that cannot be recycled.

A Dangerous Transaction

The negative environmental impact is due to the glossy coating of the receipt paper that allows the text to be thermally transferred onto it, leaving the paper unrecyclable. This coating is a combination of BPA and BPS, a known endocrine disruptor that is used to aid in the development of color on the receipts. The BPA or BPS substance on receipts can enter the body simply through touch. In a recent study retail workers were found to have 30 percent more BPA or BPS in their bodies compared to other workers who do not have regular contact with receipts, according to the Environmental Working Group and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The danger is not just limited to those working in retail. In fact, 81 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine and 90% of our exposure comes from thermal paper receipts.

Fighting Back

Consumers have become increasingly alert to the risk that printed receipts pose. Often taking to social media to voice their displeasure, many consumers have begun to boycott various retailers who heavily utilize printed receipts.

This movement has begun to receive so much traction that local governments are beginning to step in. The state of Connecticut was the first to officially ban the usage of thermal receipt paper. Many other states have also begun to examine adopting such a ban. On a global scale, the European Union will restrict the use of BPA in thermal paper beginning in 2020 and is also investigating similar restrictions on the use of BPS.

To combat the health and environment risk the state of California is taking precautions one step further by considering Assembly Bill 161. As discussed in detail in our article “skiptheslip”, this bill aims to make digital receipts the primary option for shoppers with an option to request a printed receipt. If adopted, the bill will reduce paper waste by requiring retailers by January 2022 to adopt solely electronic proofs of purpose with applicable fines if ignored.

A New Era in Retailing

A recent study by Green America found that the carbon footprint of a digital receipt is 4 grams of CO2. Being that a mature tree can absorb roughly 21,772 grams of CO2 per year, a single tree can absorb the emissions of 5,443 digital receipts. On the flip side,  It takes approximately 15 trees to produce a single ton of paper. Receipt paper demands in the US are around 640,000 tons per year. This equates to 9.6 million trees cut down each year for something so frequently disregarded by consumers.

With up to 70% of shoppers now opting for digital receipts, environmentalists and consumers alike are desiring a change to the way they review their purchases that is more convenient and reduces the impact on their personal health and the environment. Innovative brands have already begun switching to digital receipts as a way to reduce costs and better engage shoppers in the post-sale.


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