Green Chemistry and Design: Thermal Receipt Paper Project
This pollution prevention project encourages Minnesota businesses to voluntarily reduce the amount of thermal receipt papers they use and distribute to their customers because these papers typically contain relatively high concentrations of the chemical Bisphenol-A or related chemicals.
The current project runs through September 2014 and specifically targets the hospitality sector, paper recyclers and other interested partners. The project will:
- test samples of papers from business partners and estimate how much BPA is contained in the thermal papers used by participating partners,
- provide information to assist MPCA in setting guidance on best end-of-life management for thermal receipt paper,
- assist partners in switching to paperless point-of sale systems, or as a second-choice option, implement other exposure- reduction strategies,
- share the case studies of partner businesses and promote use of paperless systems to other Minnesota businesses.
Bisphenol-A is a commonly used chemical in a variety of applications including in hard polycarbonate plastic resins, in epoxy resins for adhesives, sealants, and food can linings, and in flame retardants. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is also on the Minnesota Department of Health’s list of Priority Chemicals. BPA is a reproductive, developmental and systemic toxicant in animal studies and is weakly estrogenic. It has been found in a majority of American adults and children and in Minnesota’s groundwater (see: Endocrine Active Chemicals and Other Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Minnesota’s Groundwater, 2009-2010 ) and lakes and streams ( Statewide Endocrine Disrupting Compound Monitoring Study, 2007 - 2008 ).
BPA is useful as a heat-triggered developer for thermal receipt papers used at the point-of-sale in everyday retail outlets. Because of this, the receipts have become an avenue for BPA exposure for all who handle receipts, and a mechanism for spreading BPA through the environment.
While there are thermal receipt papers available that do not contain BPA, a common substitute, Bisphenol-S*, was recently evaluated by the EPA Design for the Environment program and thus far has not been determined to be a clearly superior alternative.
MPCA thanks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Pollution Prevention Program for the grant which supported this project.
Current project news and updates
In early 2013 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and its contractor, the Stratford Companies, called for interested hospitality businesses and organizations in Minnesota to participate as partners in this project. At this time, 19 voluntary partners are working with the contractor to test their thermal receipt papers for BPA and BPS content and implement changes to their point-of-sale systems and operating procedures to reduce the amount of thermal paper they use and the amount of BPA or BPS to which their employees are exposed.
If you are a business or employee interested in this issue, check this website regularly for updates, tools and information being developed from this project. If you would like assistance or additional information, please contact Madalyn Cioci, 651-757-2276
Funding available – apply by April 15, 2014
Minnesota hospitality businesses are invited to apply to MPCA’s “Hospitality Business Transition to Paperless Receipt Grant Project”. The available grants can be used to reimburse up to $1,000 of costs for digital receipt subscription services to eligible applicants.
- Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements listed in the Request for Proposal.
- Know which vendor for subscription services you want to use and the cost of the services.
- Complete the simple 1-page application and even shorter budget form.
- Submit both forms together electronically to: firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: “CR 7121 Paperless Receipt”) Applications will be accepted on a Pass/Fail basis until April 15, 2014, or until all funds are awarded, whichever occurs first.
- Request for Proposal, Details and Eligibility: Hospitality Business Transition to Paperless Receipt Grant Project
- 2013 Paperless Receipt System Grant Application
- 2013 Paperless Receipt System Grant Budget Form
Eligible projects and costs:
Purchase of up to 24 months of subscription to a service that will result in capacity to offer digital receipts in lieu of paper receipts.
Ineligible projects and costs:
Questions regarding the grant or application form? E-mail email@example.com (subject line: CR 7121 Paperless Receipt).
These two short videos provide further detail on the MPCA’s current assistance project for hospitality businesses.
#1: BPA in thermal paper: what is it?
This video provides information about chemical developers in thermal papers (specifically BPA) and introduces the assistance program and role of businesses that would like to participate in it.
#2: BPA in thermal paper: paperless point-of-sale products
The second video provides detail about types of paperless point-of-sale systems and gives more details about how businesses can participate in the project.
#3: BPA in thermal paper: paper use and exposure reduction strategies (coming soon)
The third video presents strategies that employers and employees can use to reduce environmental releases and human exposure to BPA and BPS via thermal receipt papers.
Preapproved vendor and paperless point-of-sale database
There are many providers of digital receipt services that can result in receipts that are texted or e-mailed to customers. The following company responded to the MPCA’s Request for Information: Transaction Tree.
Participating hospitality businesses will have access to the paperless point-of-sale systems database, which describes several available systems, many of which are offering discounts to the MPCA’s partners.
As the project continues through 2013, white papers and case studies with details of the experiences of businesses that made the switch to incorporating paperless receipts will be posted here.
How much BPA is in receipts?
Recent studies have found that individual thermal receipts from retailers and restaurants can contain a mass of BPA that is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount in a can of food. Other studies have confirmed that some BPA is easily transferred onto the hands of those who handle receipts. While the rate of absorption through the skin is not completely certain, those who handle receipts as part of their employment have been found to have higher amounts of BPA in their bodies than other people.
Can I switch to a BPA-free paper?
While making paper more costly, protective coatings can reduce the amount of BPA that ends up on human hands. Protective coatings, however, do not keep the BPA from contaminating the recycled paper stream or being released to the environment. While there are papers available that do not contain BPA, a common substitute, Bisphenol-S*, was recently evaluated by the EPA Design for the Environment program and was not determined to be a clearly safer alternative. The results of the EPA project are documented in their draft report, Bisphenol A Alternatives in Thermal Paper.
How do I know if a receipt is thermal paper?
A receipt is likely thermal paper if it discolors easily when scratched with a coin or paperclip. Thermal receipt papers are quite thin, and often have a slick feel or sheen finish. They are run through thermal printers and the printing develops from the heat; ink is not physically printed onto the paper. (Note that plain paper used as receipts, where ink is actually applied to the paper, is not of concern in this project.)
Hospitality businesses sought for Thermal Paper Project
In early 2013 the MPCA put out a general solicitation for voluntary partner businesses and organizations from Minnesota’s hospitality sector to participate in this Thermal Paper Project. The hospitality sector includes restaurants, event centers, parks, resorts and hotels.
At this time the MPCA is no longer seeking additional partners to have their papers tested. Businesses seeking to learn more or make changes to their point-of-sale systems should contact Madalyn Cioci, 651-757-2276
BPA in Thermal Paper: Business Paper Use Questionnaire
Businesses interested in participating can take the first step by completing this 1-page online questionnaire about their current paper use. The 7 questions take just a few minutes to complete.
Request for Proposals: BPA in Thermal Paper Project
The MPCA requested proposals from qualified responders to work with the MPCA to document and address the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal receipt paper used by the hospitality sector in Minnesota. The Responder is responsible for recruiting hospitality partners, coordinating and documenting testing of thermal receipt papers currently in use, assisting hospitality partners in researching paperless-point-of-sale technology options, and assisting them in switching to such systems.
The MPCA has awarded this contract to the Stratford Companies.
Request for Information: Provision of Paperless Point-of-Sale or e-Receipt Systems and Related Services
Companies that provide services, hardware or software that facilitate paperless point-of-sale transactions or provision of digital receipt were invited to submit information. Information provided will be used by the MPCA and shared with businesses that may be interested in such services.
MPCA contact: Madalyn Cioci, 651-757-2276
* Chunyang Liao, Fang Liu,and Kurunthachalam Kannan. 2012. Bisphenol S, a New Bisphenol Analogue, in Paper Products and Currency Bills and Its Association with Bisphenol A Residues, Environmental Science & Technology, 46 (12), pp 6515–6522, DOI: 10.1021/es300876n