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The problem with recycling receipts

I’m willing to bet you recycle your receipts. And why wouldn’t you? After all, they’re made from paper, which is recyclable, right?

In this case: wrong.

Well, mostly.

Turns out there are two types of receipts floating around out there. The paper ones, which are recyclable and compostable, if your city has an organics program, and the thermal ones, which aren’t. But because it’s hard to tell the difference between the two, we recommend keeping them all out of the recycling bin.

That’s because  93% of thermal receipts contain Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical that’s used to produce specific kinds of plastic. And, yes, this nasty chemical is as bad as it sounds. In case you don’t believe us, BPA can mess with human health in high enough doses. In fact, in many countries, on top of being declared toxic, it has been outright banned.

Every year, we make about 8 billion pounds of the stuff. So, yeah… Not great.

Okay, so what should I do?

Before tossing all those receipts into the trash, see if your community has a special take-back program. If they’re on the Recycle Coach network, download our app for free and we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know—and then some. If not, check your public works site or give them a call. If thermal receipts aren’t accepted, feel free to trash ‘em.

Keep in mind, much of what you throw in the garbage ends up getting landfilled (or incinerated). In other words, all that BPA coating your thermal receipts ends up outside where it can leach into our soil, water, and air. If this worries you, there are other options.

You can always opt to receive an e-receipt at the point of purchase. Or, you can refuse a receipt altogether and manually track all your purchases using a budget app.


  1. Martha Hendrickson

    October 9, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    How do we tell the difference from a Thermal Receipt? Our major household/personal/insurance receipts or statements.. we hold off for our shredder (should we continue to shred at home?) Some we take to a Recycling Event ie our credit union offering a recycle time/day.

    Thank you for your advice and input. Greatly appreciate your guidance!!

    • April

      October 12, 2022 at 9:14 am

      If you scratch a thermal receipt with your fingernail, it will make black marks. But, in any case where you are still unsure, please put it in trash instead of recycling. It is better to keep an item you’re not sure of from contaminating the recycling.

      • John

        November 24, 2022 at 12:05 pm

        Manufacturers are now producing BPA- free thermal paper
        An EU-wide ban came into effect at the beginning of 2022 making it illegal to include it in paper. Same in UK

        • April

          November 28, 2022 at 2:15 pm

          That is a wonderful new development for the world of recycling! Hopefully all countries make the same change as Europe in requiring BPA-free thermal paper. Many locations across North America still will not accept thermal paper. Please check with your local recycling program to see what they accept.

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