Bisphenols in receipts and tickets

  • Bisphenols are industrial chemicals used in receipts and tickets

  • There is increasing evidence that bisphenols are harming the environment and could be impacting human health by affecting our hormones

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) will be banned from receipts in the EU by 2020, but some retailers are switching to other bisphenols like BPS, which are also of concern

  • Some retailers have already phased out all bisphenols from their receipts, with some ditching paper entirely by introducing digital options

What are bisphenols?

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 [2].

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.

What can businesses do?

  • Offer a no receipt option 

As many receipts and tickets are immediately thrown away, some retailers ask customers if they would like a receipt rather than automatically printing one. Check to see if your point of sale has had automatic printing switched off.

  • ‘Go digital’ 

Many retailers are introducing digital receipting which is both effective and will reduce long-term environmental costs of receipt 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. Bisphenol free coatings for thermal paper tickets and receipts are readily available.

What’s the problem?

It is clear from the academic, scientific research that bisphenols can have a negative impact on human and environmental health and need to be monitored, regulated and banned where the use is unnecessary and harmful. Balabanič et al. (2017) [3] 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, not just on one bisphenol chemical such as BPA alone.

Health impacts

Research like that completed by Balabanič et al. (2017) [4] on the impacts of endocrine (hormone) disruptors on biological processes, highlight the damage that can be caused to human fertility, formation of genitals and hormone related cancers. Valentino et al. (2015) [5] 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.

Environmental impacts

CHEM Trust’s report, ‘From BPA to BPZ: a toxic soup?‘ explains that BPA is ubiquitous throughout our natural environment, having a wide variety of different impacts on wildlife. This includes disruption to the development of Zebrafish larvae and amphibians as well as altering the sex and reproductive systems of various fish species [6].

In addition, a recent study from Guo et al. (2017) shows that BPA has been found to build up in green algae. This is known as ‘bioaccumulation’ as the chemical is absorbed by an organism quicker than it can be processes. This study also demonstrated that bisphenol was transferred from contaminated alga to plankton that eat it, therefore suggesting that it is possible for bisphenols to build up in the food chain [7]. 

What can you do?

  • Say ‘No, thank you!’

If you don’t need a receipt please say so! Retailers will soon get the message…

  • Keep your receipts safe

If you need a receipt for expenses or proof of purchase, that is OK!  Keep your tickets and receipts in an envelope to limit the contact with skin.

  • Bin them

We know this might not be what you expect from an environmental charity, but we do not recommend receipts are recycled. This will prevent bisphenols being introduced into our recycled paper products such as loo roll or printing paper.

What’s the solution?

Fidra have been working with the UK’s major retailers to find out what’s on their receipts, encouraging them to limit the environmental impact of their receipts, through turning off automatic receipts, going digital and switching to bisphenol free paper. We want to see all retailers choosing bisphenol-free options, rather than substituting BPA for another bisphenol, like BPS.

As UK supermarket Coop demonstrates, by using digital receipts, bisphenol free paper and no receipting options is an important part of being a responsible business. Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager Co-op, said: “We believe how we do business really matters, from our work to cut carbon, source sustainably and eradicate hard to recycle plastic, through to bisphenol and phenol-free till receipts – we are committed to ensuring we have a healthy, sustainable natural environment to pass on to future generations.”

Have a look at our table to find out what your supermarket is doing:

Retailer
  • Aldi
  • Asda
  • B&Q
  • Boots
  • Coop
  • Iceland
  • Lidl
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Morrisons
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Screwfix
  • Tesco
  • Waitrose
 
Are their receipts bisphenol free?
$20 / month
  • Aldi

    No

  • Asda

    No

  • B&Q

    Phasing out for new bisphenol-free stock

  • Boots

    Phasing out for new bisphenol-free stock

  • Coop

    Yes

  • Iceland

    Yes

  • Lidl

    Yes

  • Marks & Spencer

    Phasing out for new bisphenol-free stock

  • Morrisons

    No

  • Sainsbury’s

    No

  • Screwfix

    Yes

  • Tesco

    Yes

  • Waitrose

    Phasing out for new bisphenol-free stock

Will their receipts be bisphenol free by January 2020?
$50 / month
  • Aldi

    Yes

  • Asda

    No

  • B&Q

    Yes

  • Boots

    Yes

  • Coop

    Yes

  • Iceland

    Yes

  • Lidl

    Yes

  • Marks & Spencer

    Yes

  • Morrisons

    Unknown

  • Sainsbury’s

    Phasing in new bisphenol-free stock during the first half of 2020

  • Screwfix

    Yes

  • Tesco

    Yes

  • Waitrose

    Yes

Have they stopped receipts printing automatically?
$60 / month
  • Aldi

    No

  • Asda

    No

  • B&Q

    No

  • Boots

    No

  • Coop

    Phasing in from early 2020

  • Iceland

    Yes

  • Lidl

    On some self-service checkouts

  • Marks & Spencer

    On some self-service checkouts

  • Morrisons

    Unknown

  • Sainsbury’s

    On some self-service checkouts

  • Screwfix

    No

  • Tesco

    On some self-service checkouts and petrol pumps

  • Waitrose

    To be introduced by the end of 2019

Do they offer digital receipting?
$99 / month
  • Aldi

    No

  • Asda

    No

  • B&Q

    No

  • Boots

    Under consideration

  • Coop

    On some checkouts

  • Iceland

    Under consideration

  • Lidl

    Unknown

  • Marks & Spencer

    Under consideration

  • Morrisons

    Unknown

  • Sainsbury’s

    No

  • Screwfix

    Yes

  • Tesco

    Under consideration

  • Waitrose

    Under consideration

Further detail
$99 / month
  • Aldi

    Aldi have confirmed that all of their receipts will be bisphenol free once the legislation is introduced in 2020.

  • Asda

    In line with legislation, Asda have removed BPA from their receipts and are looking into alternatives to using BPS. Asda are also exploring the option of no receipt on some of their self-service checkouts.

  • B&Q

    B&Q (owned by Kingfisher) have made plans for receipts to be bisphenol free, and they are also looking into where else it might be used within their business.

  • Boots

    Boots are currently testing bisphenol free receipt options. They are considering digital printing.

  • Coop

    Coop have committed to bisphenol free receipts and expect to be no receipt by default early in 2020, where contracts, e.g. National Lottery, allow it.

  • Iceland

    Iceland have confirmed that their receipts are now bisphenol free and automatic receipting has been stopped, offering a no receipt option in all stores.

  • Lidl

    Lidl removed bisphenol coatings from their receipts in 2010.

  • Marks & Spencer

    M&S are moving away from bisphenol coatings from 2020. Printed till receipts for food purchases under £20 will be optional for customers by the end of the year and digital receipting is under consideration.

  • Morrisons

    Morrisons’ till receipts are BPA free, but there could still be another version of bisphenol on the paper. They are looking to make changes.

  • Sainsbury’s

    Sainsbury’s will be moving away from bisphenol coated receipts during the first half of 2020 across their business. Some of their self-service checkouts also offer the option of no receipt.

  • Screwfix

    Receipts at Screwfix (owned by Kingfisher) are bisphenol free and Screwfix are also looking into where else it might be used within their business.

  • Tesco

    Tesco have been phasing in bisphenol free receipts throughout 2019 and are now only ordering bisphenol free paper.Whilst no-receipt is default on self-service tills as well as petrol pumps, they continue to look into this for service tills.

  • Waitrose

    Waitrose’s receipts have been free from BPA for the last two years and have confirmed that all new till receipt rolls will be bisphenol free. Receiving a printed receipt will be optional for customers by the end of 2019 and a digital receipting option is under consideration.

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 [8].

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.

At Fidra, we want to see group-based legislation on chemicals so that the whole group, in this case bisphenols, is banned rather than only certain types like we have seen with BPA. Evidence demonstrates that other bisphenols, such as BPS and BPF, which are often used as an alternative where BPA is banned, have very similar properties and impacts to BPA.

References

 

[1] ‘From BPA to BPZ: a toxic soup?’, CHEM Trust, 2018

[2] Mendum, T., Stoler, E., VanBenschoten, H. and Warner, J.C., 2011. Concentration of bisphenol A in thermal paper. Green Chemistry Letters and Reviews4(1), pp.81-86.

[3] Balabanič, D., Filipič, M., Klemenčič, A.K. and Žegura, B., 2017. Raw and biologically treated paper mill wastewater effluents and the recipient surface waters: Cytotoxic and genotoxic activity and the presence of endocrine disrupting compounds. Science of the Total Environment574, pp.78-89. 

[4] Balabanič, D., Filipič, M., Klemenčič, A.K. and Žegura, B., 2017. Raw and biologically treated paper mill wastewater effluents and the recipient surface waters: Cytotoxic and genotoxic activity and the presence of endocrine disrupting compounds. Science of the Total Environment574, pp.78-89. 

[5] Valentino, R., D’Esposito, V., Ariemma, F., Cimmino, I., Beguinot, F. and Formisano, P., 2016. Bisphenol A environmental exposure and the detrimental effects on human metabolic health: is it necessary to revise the risk assessment in vulnerable population?. Journal of endocrinological investigation39(3), pp.259-263.

[6] Wu L-H et al, 2018 Occurrence of bisphenol S in the environment and implications for human exposure: A short review. Sci Total Environ.615  87-98.

[7] Guo, R., Du, Y., Zheng, F., Wang, J., Wang, Z., Ji, R. and Chen, J., 2017. Bioaccumulation and elimination of bisphenol a (BPA) in the alga Chlorella pyrenoidosa and the potential for trophic transfer to the rotifer Brachionus calyciflorus. Environmental Pollution227, pp.460-467.

[8] ‘From BPA to BPZ: a toxic soup?’, CHEM Trust, 2018