The future of receipts is digital: here’s why

By Matty Cusden-Ross, CEO of Flux

As businesses operating within the retail space, we’re all aware of the prevalence of paper receipts. Over 11.2 billion are printed every year in the UK, costing retailers something in the region of £32 million to produce. And for consumers, they’re just as ubiquitous: crammed into our wallets and pockets, and littering our worktops.

But paper receipts aren’t just old-fashioned – they’re also an unnecessary drain on natural resources.  Our research shows that at least two out of every three paper receipts is thrown away or lost – that’s more than 130,000 trees needlessly felled each year in the UK alone.

What’s more, the majority of these receipts can’t be recycled because they’re printed on thermal paper containing chemicals called bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS). BPA and BPS are endocrine-disruptors and that have previously been linked to infertility and other health problems in both humans and animals. When BPA and BPS are leaked from receipts into surface water during the recycling process, they risk contaminating other recycled products or washing downstream and disrupting local ecosystems.

When you consider not only the sheer scale of waste associated with unused receipts, but also the millions of trees, barrels of oil, and litres of water that are required to create them, the environmental impact is clear. So as the attention of the world is increasingly drawn to the escalating climate crisis, it’s imperative the retail industry start looking at greener alternatives.

So what’s the solution?

Of course, we still need receipts: they tell the story of our purchase history and they can be really useful – from tracking our spending, to claiming expenses or returning faulty items.

Not printing is the environmentally-friendly alternative, and in today’s world the technology already exists to provide digital receipts and opt-in checkouts so that receipts are only printed when absolutely necessary. The next step is to make receipts digital and accessible to everyone, everywhere.

Already, many UK retailers are looking at how they can harness this technology to provide customers with receipts that are both more environmentally friendly and more efficient than the traditional paper receipt. Some give you the option to send your receipt via email, for instance. Others use partners like ourselves at Flux to automatically send digital receipts through your banking app to provide a permanent home for your purchase history.

The worldwide climate strikes that took place last week are a testament to the fact that consumers and businesses alike are waking up to the climate emergency. But striking alone is not enough to enact change. At Flux, we’ll continue raising awareness of the benefits of using digital alternatives to paper receipts. And we hope that gradually, more and more retailers will begin to join us in our fight to Beat the Receipt. But the solution lies not just with technology. It lies in the hands of everyone who shops and everyone behind a till. We can all create change.

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