Why This California Lawmaker Wants to Do Away With Paper Receipts

California could be the first state to mandate that businesses offer digital receipts by default if a new bill passes in the State Assembly.

Introduced by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the legislation seeks to curb the damaging environmental effects of paper receipts, as well as any potential harm to consumers and workers from the toxins often used to coat their surface. If the legislation is enacted, cashiers would still be able to offer paper receipts to customers upon request. But companies would be obligated to introduce electronic receipts for all purchases by Jan. 1, 2022.

Ting drew from research conducted by the environmental nonprofit Green America, which found that the U.S. consumes 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons of water per year due to paper receipt production, generating 686 million pounds of waste and 12 billion pounds of CO2 annually. (CVS, notorious for issuing receipts roughly as long as many customers are tall, is alone responsible for 2.5 million pounds of waste per year, the group claims in its “Skip the Slip” campaign urging retailers to go digital.)

What’s more, 93 percent of paper receipts are coated in the endocrine-disrupting chemicals Bisphenol-A (BPA) or Bisphenol-S (BPS), according to a study by Berkeley, Calif.-based Ecology Center. That makes them unfit to recycle and potentially unsafe to handle at a certain volume.

It’s a particular problem for retail workers who spend all day handing receipts to customers. (One analysis of Center for Disease Control data, conducted by Environmental Working Group, found that people who reported working in retail industries had 30 percent more BPA in their bodies that the average U.S. adult.)

“We applaud Assemblymember Ting for introducing legislation that will protect the health of California workers and consumers, while protecting the environment,” said Green America’s climate and recycling director Beth Porter. “Over time, this legislation would prevent millions of trees from being logged for paper receipts, which fewer and fewer consumers want, and which often go straight to landfills. This bill will make California a leader in addressing the impacts of paper-based receipts.”

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