by: nate furler, marketing specialist
In previous Scoop publications, we have focused on the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) which is commonly found in plastics such as polycarbonate and the inside liner of cans of food. Recently, it has been given great attention in the media for its prevalence in receipts in the retail sector.
The short story is that thermal receipt tape contains a coating of plastic dust – which is typically a powder form of BPA. Unfortunately, because this plastic is in powder form, it is easily transferred to the body, and potentially the bloodstream, through simple contact with the skin. This raises potential risk for anyone that comes into contact with the paper, especially our employees, customers, and community that handle the paper routinely.
We are aware that many businesses, in particular many food co-ops, have switched from BPA-containing receipt paper to a different paper that does not contain BPA. I am happy to inform you that the Oneota Co-op already uses BPA-free thermal receipt paper in our credit card terminals.
While this is a step in the BPA-less direction, we can only hope it is the correct one. We cannot say for certain that there isn’t a degree of risk with the alternatives. Other forms of thermal receipt tape may be free of BPA, however, the manufacturer most likely uses BPS or BPF in place of BPA. As far as we can tell, the toxicity of these other chemicals are still up for debate. Therefore, we are able to say that our thermal receipt paper (used on our credit card terminals) is BPA-free, but we cannot say for certain that this new thermal receipt paper is benign. We feel this is an important distinction to be made when addressing this topic.
As with BPA-containing plastic water bottles and food containers, the highest risk associated with the absorption of BPA is for young children and pregnant mothers. BPA is suspected of contributing to developmental abnormalities – particularly in young boys. BPA has even been detected in the umbilical fluid of mothers.
The good news? You have options. The register tapes that our cashiers are able to print out for you from our Point Of Sale (POS) system – also known as itemized receipts – DO NOT contain BPA. These printers use the “old-style” paper and ink system, and therefore do NOT have a plastic coating on the paper. It is simply paper and ink.
Here are some options for avoiding contact with thermal receipts at the Co-op:
– pay by cash or check – this prevents you AND the cashier from having contact with the thermal receipt paper.
– if you are using a credit card, you will still need to sign, however you do not need to take a copy of your receipt with you
– if you are using a debit card, you will not need to even have contact with the thermal receipt paper, however, the cashier will still have to handle it.
– reduce your contact, but not avoid it completely, by making one larger payment towards a declining balance on your member account (my personal favorite). This also makes subsequent checkouts a bit faster.
One final detail – DO NOT throw your thermal receipts into the recycling pile. They can’t be recycled because of the plastic coating and will simply contaminate the paper supply at the recycling center. How to tell if it’s thermal paper? If you can run your fingernail quickly and firmly across the receipt and it leaves a mark, it is thermal paper.