Backers of California's Paper Receipt Crackdown Overhype 'Skip the Slip'

A California bill to crack down on paper receipts relies on scare tactics and misinformation.


They're at it again. On Thursday the California Assembly passed a bill that would require customers to request a paper receipt before they can be given one.

"Most of us don't need a physical receipt for every transaction. It doesn't make sense to kill so many trees and unnecessarily expose people to toxins for something we don't often need," said the bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D–San Francisco), after its passage. The bill now moves to the state Senate.

Starting in 2022, A.B. 161 would forbid businesses from providing customers with a traditional paper receipt unless they ask for one. Beginning in 2024, businesses would also be required to provide digital proof of purchase should a customer so request.

Cash-only businesses, health care providers, and retailers doing less than $2 million in business each year are exempted from the bill. Should you be caught printing up receipts in violation of the law, you'll get two warnings, after which you could be fined up to $300 a year.

To make the environmental case against receipts, Ting's bill relies on a report from Green America. The D.C.-based group's "Skip the Slip" report cites Grand View Research, a market research firm, which puts the amount of receipt paper used at 282,000 tons a year. The American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA) estimates that the U.S. goes through about 181,000 tons of paper receipts year.*

But this is a tiny fraction of even California's own paper waste. According to analysis from the California Assembly's Committee on Natural Resources, 17 percent of waste deposited in California landfills, roughly 5.95 million tons, is comprised of paper.

No state-specific data exists on receipt usage. But for the sake of argument, let's assume per capita receipt consumption is uniform across the country.

Given the state comprises 11 percent of the country's total population, this would mean Californians use 11 percent of all the country's receipts, or 31,000 tons. (That's relying on the highest estimate of receipt paper consumption.) That would mean receipts make up .5 percent of the state's paper waste, and .08 percent of total waste.

Even if all of the country's receipts were dumped in California, they'd still comprise about 5 percent of its paper waste and at most 1 percent of total waste.

Ting and Green America say receipts also pose a health risk because they contain Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS).

"Implementing phenol-free paper is an essential immediate step to ensure worker and customer health," says Green America's report. A press release from Ting's office similarly calls the public health impacts of receipts "especially alarming."

But both the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have said that the levels of BPA found in food containers and packaging are safe, and do not pose a risk to consumer health. In 2015 the EFSA—generally a hypercautious group—released a report concluding that "BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group…at current exposure levels."

Meanwhile, paper receipts are popular. A May poll from Tulchin Research found that 72 percent of California voters prefer paper receipts.

In short, receipts are a tiny, tiny fraction of paper waste, and safety watchdogs in both the U.S. and Europe have found that they do not pose a health risk.

If California legislators really wanted to reduce unnecessary paper consumption, they should consider printing fewer nonsense bills.

* CORRECTION: The original version of this article misstated the weight of receipts cited in Green America's report. This article has also been revised to remove statements about the involvement of Green America Board of Directors Chairman and Dharma Merchant Services CEO Jeff Marcous in the legislation.

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  1. Environmentalism is a political movement, exhibit ZZZZ948,402

  2. Next up in California: restaurants will be banned from providing toilet paper in their bathrooms unless a customer specifically asks for it.

    1. We’ve been using our fingers for millions of years. Big toilet paper and the industrial wet wipe complex wants us to believe that it is more hygienic somehow, but if that were true why didn’t we go extinct before it.
      Be proud of your brown knuckles, it show’s you’re morally superior.

      1. Why else do we have two hands? We just need to keep all the left handed people separated to avoid confusion and contamination.

      2. 3 seashells, bro.
        3 seashells

      3. Bad sanitation would help with the population problem. And maybe with the pension/SS problem.

        1. One can only hope it catches up with San Fransisco.

  3. Paper companies (at least North American ones) plant more trees than they cut down. If you want land to stay forested, support your local paper company.

    1. And according to the IPCC, using more wood products actually mitigates climate change.

      1. And this is why I agree that environmentalism is a religion. Recycling is it’s favorite ritual. Recycling is great when it’s efficient and cost effective. Reducing waste is certainly a good thing too. But to see some people’s reaction when you question the value of certain kinds of recycling you’d think you had just drawn a picture of Mohammed or called Jesus a fag or something.

        1. “…Recycling is great when it’s efficient and cost effective…”
          If it were consistently so, it would not be mandated. A company would do so for profit.

          1. Except as we see here another company can make more profit via the mandate

    2. “If you want land to stay forested, support your local paper company.”

      I think is was in a David Friedman book where he compared wood to cows:
      Want a lot of trees? Use them. Look at what eating beef did to the sow population.

  4. >>>The push against them is as misguided and invasive at best, cynically self-interested at worst.

    i’ll take cynically self-interested for $2000, Alex.

  5. Gosh, it’s almost like greenwashing is a thing…

  6. I think if they just implement the law for CVS/Rite Aid then they will probably have the biggest decrease in receipt waste.

    1. I was able to re-paper the interior of my home using CVS receipts.

  7. Cash-only businesses, health care providers, and retailers doing less than $2 million in business each year are exempted from the bill. Should you be caught printing up receipts in violation of the law, you’ll get two warnings, after which you could be fined up to $300 a year.

    So it’s utterly toothless virtue-signaling — and those are it’s good points!

  8. I’m no greenie but I’m a conservationist and I despise littering. I live near a major residential thoroughfare and the #1 litter item I pick up out of my yard is paper fast food cups.

    My experience is obviously applicable to the entire population, so by extrapolating…

    I propose a ban on disposable cups. If you want a disposable cup, you must request it ahead of time, otherwise the drive-thru attendant just hoses you down through the window with a bar-tap nozzle.

    We owe it to the next generation.

    1. My 3 ex-wives choked to death on Styrofoam fast food drink cups. They are dangerous and deadly.

  9. I wonder why so many stores and restaurants and such still always print the receipt?
    I’m certainly not in favor of forcing it on anyone, but asking if you want your receipt before it gets printed would seem to be good for retailers and for customers who just throw them away. I was just at the grocery store and the cashier asked if I wanted my receipt and I said no, so she just threw it away. Seems odd.

    1. Old registers that print them automatically.

    2. 1) It’s more trouble to make the printing optional than to always print and keep a wastebasket handy.

      2) This may not be true of modern cash registers, but in the past many cash registers used one printer fed with two spools of paper. It printed a receipt and a “carbon” copy at the same time. The copy was reeled up inside the machine and kept as a backup copy of all transactions.

  10. “A California bill to crack down on paper receipts relies on scare tactics and misinformation.”

    Well, isn’t that what governments do?

  11. Can I get my receipt printed on my paper straw?

  12. Yes, some trees are felled to make the paper for the receipts… but almost NONE OF THEM were randmonly harvested… nearly ALL trees for pulp are planted and culitivated specifically for paper. I can think of several large parcels of land that have produced at least three crops of pulpwood trees in the thirty years I’ve lived in this area.Pulpwood trees are just another crop, like corn, potatoes, barley….

    These dweebs fail to remember (or are young/naif enough to never have used) how simple and intuitive paper receipts are, and how stinking complicated the digital means out there are for keeping records, etc. I’ve fought with Quicken and such for hours, gave up and did it by hand.SO much easier. I would be one of those wierdoes requesting the paper receipt. I get that now at Home Depot… NO PLEASE DO NOT send me an email receipt either. CLogs my inbox with junk.
    This one size fits all thinking is ridiculous.

    1. A paper receipt also provides a permanent record under your control. Am unscrupulous company that only uses electronic records could alter your purchase history of they didn’t want to honor returns or pay full value on them or just make it look like you didn’t qualify for that buy-5-coffees-get-a-free-coffee reward.

    2. This. They’re not grinding up thousand year old redwoods for pulp. Calling for less use of paper to conserve trees is like suggesting that eating less bread will conserve wheat.

  13. I did not see where CA tax department will drop it’s requirement for receipts to prove deductions – – – – –
    If, being CA, they insist on more regulations, just limit the receipts to the financial data, and outlaw all the ads and survey bullshit.

  14. Imagine all the dead trees to create all these laws.

    All the dead trees to create copies of lawsuit appeals to each judge to fight these ridiculous Nanny-State laws.

  15. Not sure I trust the BPA assessment but I think many business have gotten away from the thermal printing (at least the ones big enough to be affected by this). Send like they will waste more paper drafting this legislation than it will save. Would be nice to see these kinds of laws voted on rather than run through without considering the will of the people. But we have to be saved from ourselves.

  16. […] Environmental Group Behind California’s Paper Receipt Crackdown Is Chaired by CEO of Digital P… […]

  17. Even if you believe their arguments, is this law needed? There’s no such law in Michigan, but many stores and restaurants will ask if you want a receipt. (However, due to technical reasons I discussed above, they may print always and throw away the unwanted receipts – and forcing them to upgrade or replace their cash registers not only takes away money from more important capital equipment, but I think would have a greater environmental impact than all those little slips of paper.) Nearly all gas stations now have “pay-at-the-pump” fuel dispensers, which ask if you want a receipt, and only print if you say yes. Even my credit union prints a receipt only when I ask for it.

    The places that always give me a receipt are fast-food places where you might need the receipt if orders get mixed up, grocery stores, big box stores like Walmart, and hardware/home improvement stores. I doubt I’d often refuse the receipt at these places. Grocery sales tend to involve many advertised specials and coupons with markdowns applied at the cash register, so my wife always reviews the receipt. The others sell many higher-cost items where you should keep the receipt in case of warranty issues.

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