Bisphenols in receipts and tickets

  • There is increasing evidence that bisphenols are harming the environment and could be impacting human health by affecting our hormones
  • Bisphenols are synthetic chemicals used in receipts and tickets
  • BPA will be banned from till receipts in the EU by 2020, but many retailers are switching to other bisphenols as replacements, such as Bisphenol S (BPS)
  • Some retailers have already phased out bisphenols from their receipts, with some ditching paper entirely by introducing digital options

Bisphenols are a group of synthetic chemicals used to make some plastics, and thermal paper for tickets and receipts. Bisphenol A (BPA) is the most studied bisphenol and one of the highest produced chemicals, manufactured at a rate of around 2.7 million tonnes each year. Evidence suggest that BPA disrupts endocrine (hormonal) systems in both humans and animal species [1] and is found in the blood and urine of almost every person who has been tested [4].

Whilst some bisphenols have not been studied as closely as BPA, all bisphenols have a similar structure and composition, and many have similar effects on humans and animals.

One way that these chemicals enter our bodies is through our skin when touching receipts and tickets. Bisphenols can also be released into the environment through landfill leachate, paper mill effluent and the breakdown of products that contain these chemicals, such as receipts.

Bans on Bisphenols

The growing concerns about the effects of bisphenols has led to the banning of BPA in various products in countries such as Canada, France and China. The EU has banned BPA in baby products and from 2020 they will also introduce a ban of the use on receipts [2].

Current legislation addresses these chemicals individually, which risks companies switching to another harmful bisphenols; such as replacing BPA for BPS on our receipts. BPS and flourine-9- bisphenol (BHPF) have been shown to have similar properties to BPA, which may lead to bans on BPS in the future.

By phasing out all bisphenols, businesses and organisations will be able to stay ahead of legislation and avoid cases of regrettable substitution.

Research like that completed by Balabanič et al. (2017) [5] on the impacts of endocrine (hormonal) disruptors on biological processes, highlight the damage that can be caused to human fertility, formation of genitals and hormone related cancers. Furthermore, Valentino et al. (2015) [6] express that exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) via tin cans, plastic packaging and till receipts and tickets “must be reduced” due to the results that they found on human health, especially in regard to foetal and neonatal exposure.

It is clear from the academic, scientific research that bisphenols do have a negative impact on human and environmental health and therefore ought to continue to be monitored, regulated and banned where the use is unnecessary and harmful. Balabanič et al. (2017) [7] go as far as claiming that “endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) are one of the most critical class of contaminants since they can cause adverse effects in the living organisms due to their interference with the endocrine system.” As a result, many academics and NGOs, such as Fidra, would like to see greater action in regard to the regulation and use of bisphenols as a group, as opposed to single chemicals like BPA.

  • Offer the option 

The majority of receipts and tickets are either immediately thrown into the bin or forgotten in the bottom of the bag. Some retailers are now asking customers if they would like a receipt rather than automatically printing one. If possible, check to see if your point of sale has had automatic printing switched off.

  • ‘Go digital’ 

In this age of digitalisation, many retailers are introducing digital receipts to their systems. This is an effective option and will reduce long-term environmental costs of using rolls of paper and printing.

  • Choose a safer alternative

Retailers have an important role in reducing the exposure levels of bisphenols to their staff, customers and wider environment. Alternative non-bisphenol coatings for thermal paper tickets and receipts are readily available and can be introduced. It is also possible to offer receipts that are not made with thermal paper at all.

  • Say ‘No, thank you!’

Customers have a lot of power when it comes to influencing the places they spend their money. Tell the businesses you engage with that you do not need a receipt.

  • Keep your receipts safe

If you do need a receipt for expenses or proof of purchase, that is OK! It is often necessary. In this situation, keep your tickets and receipts in an envelope to limit the contact with your skin.

  • Bin them, don’t recycle

We know this might go against everything you expect to hear from an environmental charity, but due to the bisphenol coating on most tickets and receipts, we do not recommend that these items are recycled but put into the general waste bins. This will prevent the chemicals being introduced into our recycled paper products such as loo roll or printing paper.