Attack of the Killer Receipts

By Motley Green   |   Published 2 yearss ago
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A campy science fiction movie once imagined giant tomatoes attacking the human race. Rising from the garbage, murdering with their juice, the huge tomatoes in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes posed a saucy threat to the public.

At MotleyGreen, we know we have nothing to fear from tomatoes (at least not organic ones); but killer receipts are another matter. The automatic production of giant receipts needlessly kills trees, and recently we’ve learned that receipts might be deadly for humans too since many of them contain the toxic chemical BPA. Nevertheless, at the end of almost every shopping expedition, the salesperson routinely hands over reams of print-out, and that toxic paper invariably finds its way into the trashcan, at least in my case.

What gives? Why the sudden need for three-foot-long receipts? Well, it seems these endless print-outs now serve numerous business purposes. Among the receipt’s many incarnations,

1) There’s the receipt as survey: I don’t know about you, but I’ve never taken the time to complete a survey of my shopping experience based on a thirty-second interaction with a check-out clerk, even if doing so will put me in the running (with ten million others) for a free fast-food meal.

2) There’s the receipt as coupon: on the rare occasion that I save one, somehow I always forget to use it before it expires.

3) There’s the receipt as legal document: if you buy electronics, the terms and conditions of your purchase in lengthy legalize are now offered to you on BPA-saturated receipt paper (instead of, or in addition to, with the product’s packaging). Huh?

4) There’s the receipt as return gift receipt, really something that should only be given if requested by someone purchasing a gift.

5) And there are the other receipts that just keep spewing out of the register and that the cashier calls after you to claim as you’re walking away whether you want them or not. 


What’s an environmentally sensitive, MotleyGreen citizen to do?  Can we “say no” to these toxic, wasteful, tree-killing print-outs? Yes, we can!

Alternatives to giant receipts include:

1)      eReceipts: A number of companies like Sears and Apple are now offering to email customers their receipts in lieu of printouts, a wonderful solution since so many people maintain records online nowadays anyway.

2)      Just saying No: Some small vendors ask if you need a receipt and if you say no, they punch in a code that keeps the receipt from printing. This is a fine idea but you have to be careful that the salesclerk doesn’t take your “no” to mean s/he should print the receipt and trash it for you, clearly defeating your conservation purposes.

3)      Shopping online and archiving your receipts in cyberspace (although online shopping with its excess packaging, among other problems, takes its own toll on the environment).

Unfortunately, we can’t expect to see the best solution, a universal switch to electronic receipts, overnight. Still, many companies are going paperless these days and environmentally-conscious consumers can try to make thoughtful choices every time they shop. Because while Attack of the Killer Tomatoes may have been a humorous spoof of classic horror films, at Motley Green we know that giant killer receipts are no laughing matter.

Some Receipt Facts :


  • 50% of forests have been cleared and 50% of that is for paper. 9 million trees a year, just for paper. It takes approximately 15 trees to produce a single ton of paper. Receipt paper demands in the US are 640,000 tons per year. This equates to 9,600,000 millions trees cut down each year just to produce paper receipts.


  • It takes approximately 390 gallons of oil to produce a single ton of paper. At 640,000 tons of thermal receipt paper demanded per year, that's 249,600,000 gallons of oil used during production. That much oil could produce 115,885,714 gallons of gas that could fill 7,023,376 gas tanks (assuming an average tank size of 16.5 gallons).


  • The amount of CO2 emitted by producing one ton of receipt paper is equivalent to the amount of exhaust a car emits while driving for an entire year. That's 640,000 cars driving 24/7 for an entire year.


  • It takes approximately 19,075 gallons of H2O to produce a single ton of paper. This equates to 1,220,800,000 gallons of H2O used during the production process of receipt paper. That's a lot of showers and swimming pools without water.


  • Approximately 2,278 lbs of trash is produced while producing a single ton of receipt paper. This means 1,457,920,000 lbs of trash are being fed into our landfill. This produces enough CO2 emissions to significantly damage the earth's ozone layer, leading to global warming.


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