Here’s the familiar routine: buy something – a taco, milk and eggs, a pair of shoes – and the cashier asks “would you like your receipt?” as they rip the paper receipt from the terminal. Taking it means that you will snap a picture of it (with the Itemize app of course) then throw it in the trash.
Though a paper receipt seems small, all the little documents add up. In 2010 it was reported that 640,000 tons of paper was used for receipts. That’s also 640,000 tons of paper receipt waste that needs to be hauled and disposed of somewhere. That’s also 10.8 billion trees – 17 trees per ton of paper. That’s also 1.2 billion gallons of water to process the paper into receipts – 19,000 gallons per ton. California might be wishing for that water right now. Furthermore, a paper receipt cannot be recycled. All the trees and water are literally being thrown in the trash. These small pieces of paper are adding up to a large amount of waste.
Some merchants are offering to email digital receipts, but it’s still not a common practice. The main reason most stores haven’t gone with digital receipts is because offering paper receipts is something they’ve always done. They don’t want to change. Additionally, many people expect to get a paper receipt. In some countries it’s legally required to provide a receipt after a purchase, and the expectation is that it will be printed out. However, the more people who say “no” to paper receipts, the more merchants will adopt the practice of emailing digital receipts.
How You can Help Reduce Paper Receipt Waste
Next time you buy something, save trees, water, and waste, say “no thank you” to paper receipts. Say it before the transaction is complete. Ask the cashier to email you a receipt. If they don’t have that option, ask the cashier to urge the store to transition to digital receipts. Maybe send an email to the store’s customer service department and explain the benefits of digital receipts, such as saving money and the environment. Get your friends to ask for digital receipts. Hopefully soon, for the sake of the environment, digital receipts will be the expectation rather than the exception.