Strategies for reducing thermal paper receipts

Cashiers have been found to have higher concentrations of BPA in their urine than people in other occupations. Because these chemicals on papers are free or “unbonded,” they can be transferred to and absorbed through the skin.

Reducing thermal paper use is the most effective strategy for reducing BPA exposure from thermal paper for employees and customers. Preliminary research results for BPS, a common alternative to BPA in thermal paper, shows endocrine activity similar to BPA. Since there are no known clearly safer alternatives to BPA in thermal paper, moving to a paperless point-of-sale (POS) system is the ideal solution for businesses.

MPCA has also developed a list of strategies to reduce potential exposure in cases where thermal receipts must be used.

Best practices

  • Use digital receipt software programs that work with existing POS systems.
  • Only print customer receipts upon request.
  • Ask customers: “Do you need a receipt?” or "Is an e-receipt OK?”
  • Only print receipts for transactions over $25 or $50.
  • Do not print merchant copy of receipt if transaction is already kept electronically.
  • If a receipt is requested, use phenol-free paper.

If thermal receipts must be handled

  • Minimize employee handling of thermal receipts as much as possible. Direct staff to:
    • avoid crumpling receipts
    • handle with just two fingers
    • minimize grip pressure
    • minimize friction/wipe action or fingers on paper.
  • Offer protective food grade silicone fingertips to cashiers to wear on their index fingers and thumbs when tearing receipts, changing receipt rolls, or cleaning machines.
  • Fold one-sided printed paper in on itself before handing to customer. One-sided thermal paper (paper that can only be printed on one side), usually has more chemical on the printed side.
  • Encourage employees to avoid hand to mouth contact when handling receipts.
  • Encourage cashiers to avoid handling receipts after using alcohol-based cleaners or when hands are wet, or when greasy from food or lotion.
  • Encourage cashiers to wash and dry hands thoroughly during breaks, after changing receipt rolls or cleaning machines, and prior to and after eating or preparing food.
  • Protect high risk populations from unnecessary exposure to BPA and BPS: pregnant and nursing women, infants, toddlers, small children, and women of child-bearing age.
  • Never hand receipts to babies or toddlers.
  • Discuss with pregnant and nursing cashiers feasible means of minimizing exposures, including alternate job functions.
  • Designate a check-out lane for customers not needing paper receipts or able to accept electronic receipts.
  • Allow customers to tear their own receipts off machines.
  • Do not place thermal paper receipts/orders directly on food during its preparation.
  • Keep drink/meal receipts dry. Do not adhere them to the sides of moist glassware.

We recommend you do not put thermal receipt paper in your recycling bin or compost bin. BPA and other chemicals embedded in thermal paper can end up in wastewater from recycling plants or minimally contaminate other papers in the recycling stream. Some cities across the country consider these papers contaminants in the recycling stream.

For more information

Al Innes: alister.innes@state.mn.us

Madalyn Cioci, 651-757-2276