Receipt Slips Are NOT Recyclable

by Michael Scepaniak on November 19, 2012 in sustainability


Do you toss your receipts into the paper recycling bin? Well, as much as it pains me to say it, you shouldn’t. Yeah, I know. It sounds crazy.

I was at MOM’s the other week when I noticed a bin in their recycling area labeled “receipts”. My girlfriend and I thought it odd that receipts would warrant their own bin. So, we asked the cashier about it and the response we got was that the receipts are partially made of plastic. (And, despite their best efforts, this includes the receipt paper that MOM’s uses.)

I was incredulous. But, all it took was a little web-searching to discover that it was true. Well-intentioned recyclers are contaminating the paper supply with plastic-coated receipt paper. Even worse, very often, that plastic coating the receipt paper is BPA plastic! Ugh.

How frustrating is that?

So now we’re compelled to just discard innocent-looking paper receipts in the trash. I really appreciate MOM’s for raising awareness of the issue among their customers. I’d love to see a watermark added to receipt “paper” that states “made with plastic – don’t recycle – we suck“. Actually, what I’d really love to see is receipt paper that isn’t coated with plastic (of course).

In the meantime, I’ll try to let as many people as possible know the plastic-coated truth about receipt slips. Pass it on, please.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin November 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Thermal paper receipts use far less plastic when viewed as a complete system than the old ink-jet printers. Before thermal receipts, plastic ink cartridges were being discarded in droves. And though thermal receipts aren’t 100% paper, they do fall under the “mixed paper” category. As long as the percentage of “coated” papers is below 10% by volume, it should not significantly degrade the fiber quality a recycler is able to capture. And if you are worried about BPA getting into the paper stream, you should probably not think about the fact that it is absorbed through your skin every time you take your receipt from the cashier.


Michael Scepaniak December 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Hmm. Interesting and well-reasoned points! I’m not sure which way to go now when disposing of my receipts. I think I’ll try to get in contact with my local recycling department to get their take. Thanks, Marty!



Joe September 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm

As Martin said, the BPA found on receipts easily absorbs into the skin but when a receipt is recycled, the BPA contaminates everything at the recycling plant, including other plastics, metals, papers but most importantly the water recycling plants use.


Matt November 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm

When did they use inkjet for receipts? Before all this thermal crap, they used dot matrix. Which the ribbons tended to last forever. And printed on plain paper.


Jonathan August 5, 2015 at 2:39 pm

I guess I should have been able to pick up on that on my own… receipt paper always felt a little waxier than normal paper. It’s good to see that Mom’s is at least taking the initiative to set people straight about it


Thermal paper rolls March 14, 2016 at 4:56 am

Hello Michael, thermal paper does contain BPA in it, that is harmful for us. So the best way to prevent it is saying “no’ to the cash registers when checking out. Or we can wash our hands after touching it.


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