Some receipt paper is highly recyclable, while thermal paper in particular presents challenges at recycling facilities.
Even in the digital age, paper receipts are still a part of the day to day. Following most purchases comes the little white piece of paper showing the evidence of fueling up at the pump, dining out, buying groceries or any other transaction. These little pieces of white paper pile up real fast in a landfill — start accounting for every transaction you make in a day, a week, a month or even a year and you get the idea.
So, the big question stands: Are receipts recyclable? Well, it depends. Like many other gray areas in the recycling world, recycling paper receipts is no exception. The good news is recycling this tricky item can be broken down into two different types of paper: regular white paper and thermal paper.
Nowadays, many merchants use thermal paper instead of regular white paper and ink because thermal paper requires no ink, making printing receipts quicker, quieter and ultimately more affordable. With this technique numbers and letters seem as though they magically appear on the paper because as the paper passes over a thermal print head, the chemical coating on the paper burns the areas of the receipt where it is heated, producing an image. If you’re still wondering what exactly thermal paper looks like, pay attention to your next transaction and search for the smooth, glossy receipts. That, my friends, is thermal paper.
In general, most recycling facilities are able to take regular white paper-and-ink receipts, but thermal-paper receipts are a trickier subject. Because thermal receipts contain certain chemicals to produce the images they do, the paper is not able to be recycled at the plant with other paper, instead requiring a separate system. Make sure to clarify with a representative at your local recycling facility if thermal paper is an accepted item, and if not, it must unfortunately be trashed.
So, in short, can we recycle our old receipts? The best practice for this is when in doubt, find out! Never be too shy to call up your local recycling facility
and ask if it accepts items you are unsure about. Odds are good that the representative you speak to will appreciate that consumers care enough to even take the time to ask. It’s better to be sure than contaminate other recyclable paper in the bunch.
As we’ve all come to know, every local recycling facility is different, so by taking that extra step you’re that much closer to living an efficient, environmentally friendly lifestyle. In addition, this will help you set the record straight on items that you’re not quite sure about but feel too guilty throwing away in the trash bin. Remember: When in doubt, just ask.