Gallery: Warning: Recycling Your Old Receipts Is Contaminating Paper wi...


The Inhabitat team is about to do something we’d never thought we’d do. We’re going to advise you to stop recycling something that is fully recyclable: thermal cash register receipts. It turns out that the ubiquitous receipts — the kind you find at most major department stores, grocery stores, bank machines etc. — contain the nasty cancer causing chemical Bisphenol A or BPA for short. When you recycle the receipts, the BPA that they contain gets tangled up in the paper pulp and then contaminates the recycled paper napkins, toilet paper, plates and cups that come out on the other end of the process.

Manufacturers create at least 8 billion pounds of BPA  – which is generally used to make the kind of clear, shatterproof plastic that is used in water bottles – each year. Unfortunately it is also found in some baby bottles and canned food among other things. BPA is a known endocrine disrupter that has been linked to some cancers — including breast cancer and prostate cancer — obesity, type 2 diabetes, Neuroblastoma and some neurological disorders.

BPA is used in thermal cash register receipt paper to coat receipts and act as a receiver for printer ink. So when you cash out at the grocery store after buying those beautiful organic apples for your thanksgiving pie, the BPA from the receipt goes right onto your hand. Then you throw it in the recycling bin and it goes right back into the paper cycle system. The researchers who conducted this study found that 94% of receipts tested had BPA on them, and the only exceptions were from Japan, where BPA was phased out in 2001. So, when possible, leave that receipt behind and if it isn’t possible, make sure to wash your hands and whatever you do, don’t recycle those contaminated receipts.

Via Science Daily


or your inhabitat account below


  1. Mark Rosenberg September 10, 2013 at 12:21 am

    caeman and preppyystud, from my research it seems like more of the BPA in thermal paper gets into the environment when it’s recycled than when it’s thrown away and dumped in a landfill. The reason is because water is used during the paper recycling process, which then picks up with BPA. And what doesn’t get picked up gets reintroduced with whatever paper material is created during the recycling process. At least when it’s in a landfill the BPA is more or less is confined to that space.

    There’s lots of great articles going into more detail about this is you look on Google.

  2. preppystud June 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    caeman, that is a good point, i didn’t think about that. if we don’t recycle, they will contaminate the landfill or the underground water, etc.

    so it seems that it is better to recycle them.

  3. Concerned Worker January 6, 2013 at 11:04 am

    At my job we try to re-purpose lots of stuff. Can the receipt rollers be re-used for art projects or are they full of BPA to?

  4. earthsaver October 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Wait, I’m confused. You used “thermal” and “ink” in the same sentence. In my experience, thermal printers use heat, not ink, to make images on paper. Also, isn’t there a current transition in the industry moving to BPA-free thermal paper?

  5. caeman October 31, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    So…what do we do with them if we cannot recycle them? We cannot simply throw them away, that lets the BPA get into the wild.

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home