Is it time to ditch the pa­per re­ceipt?

The Guardian - G2 - - News - Rupert Jones and Pa­trick Collinson

You dili­gently re­cy­cle, you carry a re­us­able cof­fee cup and you have sworn off plas­tic straws. Yet your wal­let is stuffed with crum­pled scraps of pa­per record­ing all man­ner of recent (and an­cient) trans­ac­tions: the cou­ple of quid at Tesco, the £50 from a cash ma­chine last week, that pricey pair of shoes from a year ago.

Ev­ery year the UK pumps out 11.2bn pa­per re­ceipts. What many of us prob­a­bly don’t re­alise – as Wired flagged on Tues­day – is that at least half of them can’t be re­cy­cled; they are printed on what is known as “ther­mal pa­per” and coated with a po­ten­tially toxic sub­stance called bisphe­nol A (or a sub­sti­tute, BPS). The ad­vice is that we should send ther­mal pa­per re­ceipts to land­fill, not the re­cy­cling bin.

Is this mountain of un­re­cy­clable pa­per nec­es­sary? The rapid growth of con­tact­less pay­ments means many re­tail­ers don’t even of­fer you a re­ceipt any more. Yet if you are pay­ing with cash, there may be no other way of ac­quir­ing a record of your pur­chase.

In­creas­ingly, in­stead of say­ing “Re­ceipt’s in the bag”, shop as­sis­tants have been ask­ing: “Can we email you your re­ceipt?” On the face of it, this is a wel­come trend – less po­ten­tially toxic pa­per pro­duced and dis­carded. But, of course, once that re­tailer has your email ad­dress, you will sim­ply be swap­ping that pile of pa­per scraps for a mountain of dig­i­tal in­box de­tri­tus. And what if that email re­ceipt never ar­rives, and your pricey new shoes fall to bits a week later – or, worse, you are ac­cused of shoplift­ing? At least those of the old school have a re­ceipt to wave righ­teously.

It might be in de­cline, but we won’t be see­ing the last of the pa­per re­ceipt any time soon. Re­mem­ber the plans to kill off an­other ar­guably out­dated piece of pa­per – the cheque? In 2009, it was an­nounced that cheques were go­ing to be phased out – by last Wed­nes­day, in fact. But that prompted a huge row, forc­ing a hu­mil­i­at­ing U-turn by the body rep­re­sent­ing banks. Any plot to kill off pa­per re­ceipts would prob­a­bly be met with a sim­i­lar out­cry from many older peo­ple, char­i­ties and dig­i­tal re­fuseniks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.