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Paper receipts, amounting to 53,000 trees, discarded annually in Britain

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Briton’s discarded or lost about 10 billion receipts in 2018. This is the equivalent of destroying Sherwood forest, the famous forest occupied by Robin Hood, you may remember. It is staggering to think that annually Britain’s throwaway, in the form of paper receipts, the equivalent of 53,000 trees.

Paper receipts destroy forests and often we don’t need them.

And this in an era of digital receipts when we simply do not need paper versions any more. Campaigners say the production of these unnecessary receipts released more than 18 million kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2018. This is equivalent to burning more than 40,000 barrels of oil.

It is time, campaigners say, for retailers to give up on paper receipts and start issuing digital versions. Technology exists to create them. I have to say that increasingly, in supermarkets, at checkout supermarket employees ask whether customers want a receipt. I nearly always say that I do not. But people change their habits very slowly and clearly most people accept the receipt unthinkingly.

Half the receipts are printed on thermal paper. They are not recyclable because they contained bisphenols. This is a group of chemicals which includes BPA. BPA is categorised as toxic by the European Union (EU). They want receipt makers to stop using BPA. It’s linked to fertility problems.

Receipts that people handle daily sometimes leach chemicals into their bodies and the environment. These chemicals are reaching the environment through landfill and waste from paper mills and of course the breakdown of these receipts.

Bisphenol also disrupts hormones in animals. There is an organisation called Beat The Receipt which is working with Green America. Green America is pushing for the Californian authorities to make digital receipts the default option from 2022.

Other than supermarkets, high street retailers including Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) are supporting the campaign to stop the creation of paper receipts. It’s about making people aware of environmental issues.

Interestingly, research indicates that three quarters of people would prefer to receive digital receipts. However, 9/10 people need receipts in the previous year for reasons such as expenses but the majority said that they are usually lost or thrown away.

I am drawn to the thought of mass habitat loss, the cutting down and destruction of virgin forests in Asia. There are some wonderful and rare wild cat species in Asian forests and they’re rapidly losing their homes. The trees are cut down for innocuous items such as toilet paper. It is wanton destruction. Palm oil plantations also destroy virgin forests. There is pressure from some quarters to cut back on the production of palm oil. The retailer Iceland tried to run a campaign against palm oil production by not stocking the product but they suffered a backlash as I recall.

I hope people will read this article, although very few will, and decide to always refuse to accept a receipt if possible.