When we recently heard that some receipts can release a lot more BPA than any plastic bottle on the market we had to know more. And while this subject might not be inherently DIY related, it can certainly factor into having a safe and happy home- especially on Earth Day. Plus we’re all about simplifying our lives (it was even my 2010 resolution) so the solution that we reached after reading up on this topic actually contributes to less daily clutter and chaos, which is always a good thing. Who doesn’t want to have a more organized wallet, purse, and home?
Here’s the gist. Science News recently reported that some receipts are made with a technology that leaves them covered in the powdered form of BPA (which can much more easily get onto your hands and be spread around/ingested). This is particularly interesting when you consider that the much less spreadable form (and much smaller quantities) of BPA found in water bottles, old Nalgene containers, tupperware, and even baby bottles are all over the news and have many people reaching for BPA-free options these days. As a point of comparison, plastic bottles can leech “nanogram quantities of BPA” while the average BPA-laden receipt will have “60 to 100 milligrams of it” (yup, that’s way more) – all of which are loose and ready to be spread around (unlike a bottle which usually needs to be heated or aged to release them). Who’s dying to wash their hands? I was when I got about this far into the article.
Although some people are still skeptical about the true dangers of BPA (we’re still trying to wrap our minds around it), it’s been flagged as an “endocrine disruptor” by the Centers for Disease Control, and studies have linked it to breast cancer, obesity, attention deficit disorder and abnormal hormonal and genital development in infants. Even the Food & Drug Administration believes there is “reason for some concern” over the chemical’s effects on fetuses and children and Dr. Robert Lawrence of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has said “I would avoid it- enough research suggests there are risks.” The unfortunate thing about the whole receipt debacle is that the BPA laced receipts don’t look any different than non-BPA ones. Que the womp womp sound effect.
Our BPA approach is pretty much an “it can’t hurt to be better safe than sorry” mindset. We try not to drive ourselves crazy but we’ve done our best to limit our exposure by doing simple things like switching out plastic tupperware for glass containers and drinking filtered tap water from a stainless steel Klean Kanteen instead of a plastic bottle. We even registered for some cute glass Weego bottles for the bean. But the whole receipt revelation really got us thinking. Here we were assuming that BPA wasn’t an issue for us anymore and we were probably touching (and eating it) on a near-daily basis. Plus thinking about how many times we washed our hands before ordering food and then ended up touching the receipt before sitting down to eat had us a bit grossed out. Especially since I’m carrying what we like to refer to as “precious cargo” these days. There’s nothing like the self-induced paranoia of a pregnant lady, I tell ya.
But the good news is that our “answer” to this new knowledge was pretty simple. Whenever possible we now ask the cashier to toss the receipt for us. That way it never ends up in our hands, my purse, John’s wallet, and ultimately our house. After all, I’d estimate that nearly 80% of all the receipts that we’re offered on a daily basis aren’t necessary since we’re purchasing things that we know we’ll never return (food, gas, office supplies, etc). Plus if you usually use receipts as records of your business write offs, it’s nice to note that if you use your credit card for those purchases they’ll show up in your statement (so you might not even need those slips of paper clogging up your files and folders after all).
Sure there are definitely still certain purchases that you may return (you don’t want to end up with a house full of stuff you hate out of fear of touching receipts) but so many stores like Home Depot and Target can now look up any purchases that you’ve made on the credit card that you used… so no receipt is necessary anymore, as long as you don’t pay cash. Really, we haven’t used a receipt to return anything from Target or Home Depot in months- it’s so convenient. Plus by using a credit card (which we pay off in full each month) we earn more points and keep things a lot more organized and itemized for future records than the old wad of paper slips in my purse ever did. And when it comes to the receipts that you just can’t avoid touching, you can at least store them in a closed container (like one of those plastic accordion file things) either in your purse or at home. Then just wash your hands after you handle them- in case they’re of the BPA variety.
Taking it a step further, wouldn’t it be great if “opting out” of a receipt became more of a common practice in the future? Talk about all the paper waste that could be eliminated. Our ATM actually asks if we want a receipt and we always decline. It just makes us happy that we’ve been given the choice to save one little slip of paper from being generated on our behalf (and my purse is a lot cleaner since I started that practice). Plus the fact that our bank already serves up this option makes us hopeful that more stores will adopt it as well (they’d save money too!) and someday receipts in general might just be a thing of the past. Wouldn’t life be so much more organized without all those little white slips of paper? Gotta love something as simple as going sans receipt. Especially when it may even have a positive effect on your health and can painlessly cut down on purse clutter and household waste at the same time.
So what do you guys think? Do you feel like donning plastic gloves and going through your wallet or purse like it’s full of toxic waste? Please don’t! We try not to get too carried away with these things so just remember that hand washing can’t hurt and leaving receipts at the store is a pretty easy fix for the most part. And on the subject of a healthy and happy home, what are you doing these days to keep things simple and safe around your casa? Any babyproofing going on? Any no-VOC paints getting taken for a test ride? Any cookies being put on the highest shelf in the kitchen so you can’t reach them while John’s at work and eat them all (nope, not talking from personal experience here).
Update: The Washington Post later wrote an article on this very subject. Check it out here.
Yeah, I get pretty excited when I don’t have to take a receipt at the gas pump, either!!
OMG, Sher – totally paranoid over here now! Ha ha!
Actually, I am on a mission to be more green by the end of 2010! My first step is researching cleaning supplies. Then it’s beauty supplies, and then who knows…?
Happy Earth Day, everyone! Love our home – it’s the only one we’ve got!
that is crazy, what about the poor sales people, all day long touching chemicals that could make them sick! i try and decline a receipt when i can, costco gas also does that but i surely touch enough of them!
Thanks so much for sharing this information!
Godless Girl says
I hadn’t heard about receipts and BPA, so thank you very much for this information. I need to look into this issue more. I’ve been using a BPA-free water bottle for a few years, but I wasn’t sure what the dangers might be.
what do you do if you have to sign a receipt? Do you think you’ll be concerned about touching it?
Hey Godless Girl,
I guess just try not to touch them if you can and if you must just wash your hands. We try not to get too crazy about it, but just knowing to cut down contact and wash hands after handling them makes us feel better.
April in CT says
Ohhh, cookies… Sorry, I’m easily sidetracked.
I had NO idea about this one! Very interesting and I’m glad you posted about it so I can read more about it. We definitely try to cut out certain things now that BPA information is so out there now. Absolutely, better to be safe than sorry. I still use plastic containers for food storage, but only put cooled food in them and never use in the microwave. I would like to replace them with glass at some point and keep looking for the perfect replacements (I’m pretty picky). My hubby uses the Klean Kanteen (he’s nuts about it!) and I use my Camelback BPA free and recently got one from them that is stainless insulated that rocks. When we own our home again low or no VOC paints will be used. My hubs is in the Coast Guard and has made certain these are the only types of paint purchased now in his dept. when any painting is required. Make changes where you can, it’s so easy!
Wow! Thanks for letting us know! I think you are right about places starting to go receipt free. I know that Starbucks always asks if you want your receipt or not and so does the Costco gas station. Hmm… definitely something to think about!
Very interesting. I own a small boutique and obviously come in contact with receipts everyday. I’m going to need to do a little research to see where my paper sits on the BPA scale, and see if there are any alternatives. Thanks for the heads-up.
That’s great Jill! If all shop owners did the same thing the world would be a better place!
Jessica @ How Sweet says
I always try to decline a reciept, but they usually have to print it and rip it out anyway!
I’m not so sure about this idea. Receipts are important for several reasons.
– They solemnize the transaction between you and the store.
– If you itemize your taxes, the receipts serve as proof for purposes of writing off the sales tax portion of the sale.
– And perhaps the most important, they keep retailers accountable because without them, are you sure you are paying the right price for things? Are you sure you are not being double charged? Are you sure you are being charged for only the items you purchased?
I think the better solution here is to encourage retailers to use safer paper.
Love your blog.
Awesome. My store uses thermal imaging receipts. THANKS, UNIVERSE.
That’s awesome Amy!
Laura @ youngDCliving says
Thanks for the tips! Definitely wasn’t aware of that. Is that pic of Burger and the canteens taken with the new cam?? If so, it looks great :)
That actually was an old pic with the point and click. But glad you think it looks good! That makes us happy.
Alissa H. says
That’s not going to work for me, I’m a couponer and like to save my receipts for rebates. I guess I’ll just try to wash my hands after shopping.
I have actually heard that those coupons they give you at the grocery store when they hand you your receipt have the most BPA. I avoid those like the plague! I actually avoid most receipts anyway since I hate clutter, but wasn’t aware that BPA is potentially so prevelant. Thanks for the tip, will pass it on!
Just a little FYI: Target has made an attempt to lesson receipts at some registers (Food, Deli, etc) to cut back on useless paper and has also started an instore recycling center. Thought you should check that out next time you head that way.
That’s great news Corley. Anther reason to love Target!
Oh my gosh, that is crazy! I never knew that receipts contained BPA, and so much of it, too! I won’t freak out over it, but in our quest to manage our finances in the last couple of years we’ve made it a habit to always request/take a receipt so that we can plug it into our financial spreadsheet later to keep strict track of our dough. Even if’s giving money to charities, we try to keep track of everything lest we spend more than we have. Perhaps it’s time to find a different way to keep track of our finances.
I think going receipt-less is a good idea, and so is asking the cashier to toss it at the store, but I’ve had countless encounters where I’ll take 5 steps away from the checkout counter and notice errors when reviewing the receipt. I’ll take it back to the cashier/customer service and show them my bag of purchases and the receipt and they’ll reimburse me/correct the receipt. I think I would end up worrying about receipt errors if I didn’t review it to make sure it’s correct before tossing it. I think I might just stick to my receipt-hoarding ways, and just make sure to wash my hands alot more when handling them.
Great post! Thanks for enlightening me on Earth Day. :)
Wow, thank you so much for posting this! I never would’ve imagined. I wonder how many other stores are willing to accept returns based on the credit card record? i’m definitely going to start asking now when i shop.
You can also get a Neat Reciept Scanner http://www.officemax.com/catalog/sku.jsp?skuId=21714272&cm_mmc=GBase-_-Technology-_-Scanners-_-Handheld%20Scanners&cm_ven=Performics&cm_cat=Google%20Product%20Listing%20Ads&cm_pla=Primary&cm_ite=Primary&affcode=performics&siteID=k232270&mid=ChMI07S7suGaoQIVl0zlCh1nMhBNEAIYAiAA It’s great if you have a business and need to keep things organized.
Lisa @ lists in my pocket says
Ugh, thanks for sharing! I will definitely be more careful from now on.
Don’t we need to keep our receipts for taxes and returns?
As we said in the post, you definitely should save receipts for anything that you may return if those stores don’t do non receipt returns (although a ton of places like Target and Home Depot do if you use a credit card). Plus many purchases like gas, groceries, stamps and other items aren’t things most people “return”, so they might not be necessary to hold onto. And as for taxes, if you use a credit card, that’ll itemize your purchases for you and can definitely be used in lieu of receipts for certain types of tax filing so that’s another way to avoid them if you’d like (again no pressure, just an alternative we’re tossing out there). We’re definitely not saying don’t touch or save receipts ever again, we’re just personally going to try to cut down on the useless ones that we used to shove into my purse and John’s wallet without a second thought. Hope it helps!
Mrs Soup says
We’ve been constantly trying to get to be completely paper-free for a while now. We pay everything we can online and opt out of mailed statements. No receipt at the grocery store, everything otherwise is checked then shredded and used for compost. If only our trash and recycling company would let us pay online too, we’d be 100%. Alas, no such luck.
Stacy Lapinel says
I know this is a bit off-topic but I didn’t want to add to your full inbox…
I’m thinking of making my own compost bin using your tutorial but I was wondering if you guys have had pest/rodent problems resulting from the little holes at the bottom of the container?
Thanks and Happy Earth Day!!
Nope, none at all after years of use. Things break down pretty fast so pests don’t seem too interested in the rich soil that it makes (Burger doesn’t even give it a sniff- ever). Of course it does attract worms but they’re part of the process so that’s a good thing! Hope it helps.
I think it’s a all a bit paranoid/bonkers TBH. I think things can be taken too far. I am 30 yrs old, prob fed with BPA bottles, & will prob be fine.
Mr. Inspired says
This is an emerging trend in accounting for receipts online as opposed to receiving a paper copy. The only company that I am aware of spearheading this movement is Transaction Tree. http://www.transactiontree.com/
Just FYI, I am not sponsored by Transaction Tree, nor have I ever used their services. I am just vaguely aware of them, and thought that this could contribute to the conversation. So if anyone has experience with a service like this leave a comment.
Thanks for the tip Mr. Inspired! We’ll have to check it out.
Mr. Inspired says
Sorry for the multiple comments in a row, but I just found this video that briefly explains how Transaction Tree works.
If you leave it up to the sales person to dispose of your receipt, there are some important things to consider.
1. Does your receipt contain private information (e.g. your credit card number? Name? etc.).
2. If so, how is this receipt being disposed of? Shredded? (Good). Tossed in the garbage intact? (Bad).
Great point Mel! We haven’t seen a single receipt with our name or our full credit card number on it (usually it’s just a bunch of stars and sometimes the last four numbers of it, if any). But it’s definitely something to look out for!
This makes me question shredding your paper, adding it to compost and gardening it. We’re all screwed ;)
Ashley @ The Design Thief says
WOW! I had no idea about all of that BPA–especially on receipts. I usually try and throw mine in the trash on the way out of the store just so I don’t end up with the unnecessary clutter.
On another note, YHL has inspired me to try some no-VOC paint in my daughter’s room. I mean, it can’t hurt anyone just to have a few less toxins, right?
Jeannine @ Small & Chic says
I’m also a little nervous about reconciling my accounts and making sure I’m charged properly. I have definitely had trouble with restaurants and hotels in the past.
I started taking a camera phone picture of the gas pump, but I realized that the receipt has far more information, which would be necessary if there was an erroneous charge.
I definitely decline receipts when I can at the ATM and pump. I did see a story on TV about identity theft that advised not to throw receipts in trash cans and to shred them. Apparently savvy identify thiefs can get your information with just the last four digits of your cc and other basic info on most receipts.
I like the receipt scanner idea, but not sure if stores would accept that if you needed to return the item. We are on the Dave Ramsey plan and don’t use credit cards, so since we purchase with cash we need to have the receipts in case of return or exchange. I would think that the retailers should switch to safer paper.
As for other things, I would love to throw out all my old tupperware and get all glass…
As a former retail manager, I just wanted to let you know that a lot of stores do have receipt look up…BUT, in efforts to limit fraud, the computers limit how many times one person can do them. It even says it on the Target website in their return policy
“Target does allow a limited amount of no receipt refunds or exchanges for guests that don’t have a recieipt.”
So be careful with that.
Good point! But it’s definitely smart to read up on all return policies (and ask questions) before tossing your receipt if you think you may return something. When it comes to Target, that disclaimer is actually just referring to no receipt returns paid for with cash that they can’t track. We have returned at least twenty things to both Home Depot and Target without a receipt and as long as they can look it up and see that you’re legit and “track” the transaction to a credit card they don’t mind. That rule is in place for fraud as you mentioned- so if they think someone is consistently stealing things and then returning them for cash without any proof of purchase they’ll enforce it. Hope it helps!
I like that the Apple store emails you the receipts. And since having them do this I have not received any promotional emails from them, so they definitely do not use it for filling your inbox up.
About ATM receipts, I try not to take them generally, but if you ever deposit cash, TAKE IT! A friend of mine and I have both been almost burned by this. He (stupidly really) deposited $3000 cash at the drive thru and got a reciept. He threw it out a few days later at a gas station. The next day he noticed the money still hadn’t gone in so he called the bank only to find out that they had no record of the transaction! He went back the the gas station, waded through garbage, found the receipt and proved the bank wrong. In my case it was a check I deposited (to an actual banker!) that they totally lost. I had the receipt proving I made the deposit and they had to credit it. Withdrawals probably aren’t as big of a deal…
Great tip Erin! We’re always depositing checks (neither of us get paid in cash) so we didn’t think about that!
Hum….that is very interesting and something I hadn’t heard in relation to BPA. I’ll have to ask Dr.Plastic about this tonight.
Thank you! I had no idea. I am all for waiving the receipt when possible, particularly since our two year old has recently taken to rummaging through my purse (I have been known to keep candy in there on occasion…he knows this) and throwing things in the garbage – and taking them out. I want his cute little hands far away from all our receipts. We like to track our spending on things like gas and groceries, but we’ll stick to online banking details for this in future, rather than looking over receipts. Thanks again :)
I like the IDEA of going reciept-less but I rely on them for budgeting purposes. I have my budget separated into categories (I use YNAB software) and so, for example, remembering that I spent $211.27 at Home Depot isn’t enough for me. I need to know that I spent $27 on roofing nails and related supplies (Repairs and Renos), $109 on dining chairs (Furnishings), and $75 on plants and garden-related things (Yard/Garden). I won’t always track things so closely but right now I’m using a zero-based budget (meaning I start out with $X and budget my income down to zero before I spend any of it. It’s really helping to keep me accountable when I know that I only have $20 in my monthly clothing budget and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So for me, for now, receipts stay.
It’s crazy how just about everything around us is full of poison in some form or another! I try to avoid all of these “known” problems – I eat vegan and mostly organic, use organic makeup and shampoo, avoid plastic bottles like the plague, and love Valspar paint for its low VOCs AND low price. It’s hard to balance living a “normal” life with avoiding all of the many, many potential toxins in the environment around us! Thanks for bringing this issue to light.
Jane @ The Borrowed Abode says
The Whole Foods that I shop at in Vienna, VA now has the option to view your receipt online rather than get a paper one. It’s an interesting technology and would be fantastic if all stores started utilizing it!
I’m going to err on the side of financial caution for the time being and save receipts for any big purchase – for 3 or so months. But will definitely wash hands more!
Actually, when I worked for Macy’s and Old Navy, we did no receipt lookups for credit cards as well as cash returns. There are limits to the amounts of time you do it for both processes. It depends on the situation, how many times you’ve done it, the amount of the refund, and things like that though. It DOES happen though. I agree with getting rid of non essential receipts like atm, food, gas, and stuff you know you won’t need to return, but you can hit a limit at these retailers if you are a frequent no receipt returner.
I return stuff without receipts sometimes too…but it would just suck to be at the return desk that one time you have a hundred dollar whatever that just did not work and for whatever reason your return is denied because you don’t have a receipt.
Very true! It’s all about learning which receipts you can do without. By no means do we think anyone is capable of cutting them all out permanently- goodness knows we can’t! We’re just trying to cut down where we can, and it’s a personal thing so to each his own!
I know a lot of people will read this and think “I’ve used plastic bottles, etc for years and I’m fine!” — For the record, most cancers remain latent for DECADES after the exposure that caused them. Which means the stuff you do, wear, and use today could have consequences down the road.
I personally believe a lot of cancers are caused by hormones. Plastics and cosmetics/beauty products contain large amounts of hormone disruptors that a lot of people aren’t even aware of.
So thanks for the tip about receipts! I had never thought of that. Just the other day I sorted through a pile of receipts… while having a snack. Yuck. Luckily this receipt thing has such an easy fix :)
I was pregnant when I first learned about BPA and I had a hard time buying bottles because everyone else was worried too and the stores couldn’t keep up! Who knew receipts had it too! Gross! We are working hard at our house to “go green” by using natural products such as Dr. Bronners castile soap (love it) and Burt’s Bee’s Baby Bee for our son’s baths. We also use all natural cleaning and laundry products. I want to use your recipes to make my own soon! We are also planting an organic garden in a raised bed that I am building. Oh, and after watching Food Inc (gross!) I have become a fanatic about what we eat. I have to recommend my favorite book to you three: Raising Baby Green. I love it. It helps me remember that the changes I am making make a difference! I love your blog and can’t wait to see you be parents! You’ll be awesome!
We too loved Food Inc and Raising Baby Green. Two great reminders that we can make a difference!
Wow! I had no idea about the receipts. It’s so scary all the bad for you stuff lurking out there . Thanks for the head’s up. I will definitely be more aware and ask to have them trashed at the checkout if at all possible.
Also watch for these 10 other less commonly known sources:
Pizza boxes made of recycled cardboard
Credit card receipts at the gas station and your local restaurant
Wine (fermented in BPA-resin lined vats)
Rubbermaid polycarbonate-lined baking tins used by Subway
Pop (soda) cans
Organic canned tomatoes
Common plastic cups used in college cafeterias
Blue-tinted hard plastic 5-gallon drinking water bottles. (Some water filters that store filtered water in polycarbonate containers.)
According to recent article in the Chicago Tribune.
That’s so interesting! Thanks for sharing Laurel!
This BPA stuff is pretty scary. But on Earth Day, I think this is a great post, too! So much paper wasted. I’ve often wondered why more retailers haven’t caught on the Apple Store! If you buy anything, they ask if you’d like the receipt emailed to you (rather than printed out). What a great way to cut down on paper (and avoid scary BPA!).
BPA is everywhere. One of the largest contributors to our body burden is the lining in canned foods. I have switched to only frozen vegetables. Sadly it is even in the lids of jarred foods, yes even baby foods, in small quantities. Canada has largely banned it in their canned food, but while the jury is still out on the effects of this chemical we are left to live as chemical guinea pigs. Sometimes I feel the only way to escape these toxins is to raise all of my own food and eat it fresh. We live in a toxic world.
Jane @ The Borrowed Abode says
My local Whole Foods (Vienna, VA) gives you the option to view your receipt online rather than get a paper one. That could become a great service if more retailers offered it!
I totally agree that stores need to have an “opt out” option for receipts. Some people might want their receipt to balance their checkbook, but people like me who does all their banking electronically, just throw the receipt out. Imagine how much paper would be saved?! I’d opt out every single time because I use my debit card, rarely do I use cash any more.
Just wondering if anyone knows what makes the receipts so dangerous (as opposed to other printed documents that we touch every day)…
If you click the link we referred to at the beginning of the second paragraph it should help explain things. Of course the science of everything is a bit complicated but it seems that the way that certain machines generate receipts implement powedered BPA to create the carbon-ish image. Hope it helps!
Ugh, this is scary and so stupid. Its a receipt, just a piece of paper, why does it need BPA in it. Is it the BPA that makes those ones miserable to sign on. You know the ones that the pens don’t work on and you have to go through a few pens or put it on a different surface.
Wells Fargo let you email your bank receipt to you, its great. I wish ALL my receipts could be emailed to me – okay entrepreneurs, here is your chance. I hate those receipts in the bottom of my bag and now chemicals and…..ugh, all worked up now. thanks for yet another great post.