I diligently sort my recycling each week and can’t remember the last time I needed to print something out. Yet, still my wallet gets filled with these small crumpled up pieces of paper reminding me I paid £2.50 for an egg mayo sandwich!
The UK has had a paper receipt problem for a while. Even though bloggers have been writing about the issue for more than a decade, 11.2 billion receipts, costing £32 million to produce, are spewed out of UK tills every year.
Even when I say I don’t want the receipt it often gets printed anyway and goes straight in the bin – what’s the point in that?
I want to see the death of paper receipts – and I know I’m not alone. There’s the environment to think about – at least half of receipts are printed on unrecyclable ‘thermal paper’ destined only for landfill. There’s our health – those shiny ‘thermal’ receipts are coated with BPA, a chemical that’s banned in baby bottles and is linked with infertility and other health risks.
There’s also the fact that our ever-more digital lifestyles don’t lend themselves to scrappy bits of paper slowing you down at the checkout and clogging up your handbag (or man bag).
I’m optimistic that the days of paper receipts are numbered. Digital receipts are better for retailers, better for the environment and better for my wallet. So what are the options?
Well, there are email receipts. This is a good place start, but doesn’t sit well with anyone reluctant to give their email address or phone number away just because they fancied a flat white.
Another option is an app like Apple Pay or Google Pay – as long as you’re spending less than £30, that is.
But what about plug-in, point-of-sale solutions such as Flux?
I was interested to read that the popular unicorn digital bank Monzo started sending digital, itemised receipts from four food retailers – Pod, Pure, EAT and Itsu – to its 1.4 million UK customers a few months ago. All it just takes is a few taps and voila, Flux is set
up on the app and allows you to track every coffee and sarnie you buy – if you so desire...
As more retailers use solutions like Flux, could we see paper receipts become the next plastic straw?
Maybe, but paper receipts won’t go down without a fight. Ten years ago, we were told cheques were to be no more but supporters went mad and the body representing banks had to make a sharp, and rather embarrassing, U-turn.
The only way we’ll truly see a change is if governments start to legislate against paper receipts.
Personally, I suspect that, one day, paper receipts will be confined to history. Perhaps they’ll appear in retro TV shows next to telephones with dials, Betamax videos, and wonder sauna hot pants (seriously, they were a thing in the 1970s).
At which point we’ll all roll our eyes, give a wry smile and think just how far we’ve come