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Proposed bill would curb use of paper receipts in California

The measure would enforce the use of electronic receipts

Photo (c) bernie_photo - Getty Images
New legislation proposed on Tuesday would make California the first state to require businesses to offer electronic receipts unless customers specifically request paper copies.

The push to begin phasing out printed receipts in the Golden State has already begun, according to Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco, who introduced the bill. However, the proposed measure (Assembly Bill 161) would ensure that consumers are fully aware of the health and environmental impact of paper receipts.

For example, most paper receipts aren’t recyclable, are coated with chemicals that aren’t allowed in baby bottles, and can contaminate other recycled paper because of the chemicals known as Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS), Ting said.

Transitioning to e-receipts

Under the bill, businesses would be required to provide proof of purchase receipts electronically starting in 2022 unless a customer asks for a printed copy.

“There’s a negative impact on the environment with these receipts and the inability to recycle them,” Ting said. He also cited studies by the Environmental Working Group and the CDC showing that retail workers have higher concentrations of BPA or BPS than those who do not have regular contact with receipts.

If passed, the measure would be similar to another recently enacted piece of legislation in California -- one which requires restaurants to provide straws only at customers’ request. Similar to the straw bill, infractions would be subject to two written warnings followed by a fine of $25 a day for subsequent violations, with an annual $300 cap.

Privacy concerns

While phasing out paper receipts would undoubtedly have environmental benefits, some say the use of electronic receipts raises privacy concerns. Businesses would “have your email, then they'll be marketing to you or selling your information or it can get into privacy issues," noted Republican Assemblyman Brian Dahle.

But Ting countered by saying that consumers can still ask for paper receipts if they’re worried about giving out their email addresses. An additional benefit of the proposed bill would be its potential to save businesses money.

But at its core, the bill is intended to cut down on the environmental burden of paper receipts. The advocacy group Green America estimates that millions of trees and billions of gallons of water are used annually to make paper receipts in the United States.

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