Would you like a receipt with that coffee? by Gia Machlin, May 04 2010, 78 Comments

Thermal Paper Receipt

Every day I walk into Starbucks and get my Decaf Grande Americano in a personal cup. And every day Wendy asks me - would you like receipt? Not to pick on Wendy, she's the best, but why would I want a receipt for my $2.67 coffee? No thanks, no receipt, I say. Most of the time the receipt gets printed anyway, gets ripped off and tossed away right in front of me. That's silly.

When it comes to preventing waste, the whole paper receipt thing hasn't caught too many people's attention. Receipts just seem so small and harmless compared to, say, the plastic shopping bags you stick them in. And if I had to pick one battle to fight, the shopping bag wins. But the environmental cost of receipts should not be ignored. According to Alletronic, an electronic receipt software provider, 9,600,000 trees are cut down each year just to produce paper receipts. And to make matters worse, thermal paper receipts can't be recycled because of the chemicals used in making them.

There are many things about my obsessive compulsive personality that have interfered with my quest to lower my environmental impact. From being reluctant to remove Clorox wipes from my cleaning routine to having trouble accepting the whole "if it's yellow let it mellow" concept, I've had to call upon many years of therapy to change some of my more "neat and tidy" habits. So the thought of NOT getting a receipt for an ATM withdrawal was a concept that also took a while for me to warm up to. I was so anal, not only did I always used to get the receipt, but I would take it home and reconcile it against my bank statement. Call me a nerd, but it was my way of life before I became conscious of reducing the amount of waste I produced. So the first time I answered "NO" to the ATM's "Would you like a printed receipt?" query, I have to admit I was a little nervous. What if the bank deducted the wrong amount and I did not have a receipt prove it, what then? Slowly I got over this irrational concern - realizing that in reality, if the bank's records were incorrect, my one paper ATM withdrawal receipt wasn't really going to help prove much. Scary thought.

But, OK, for those situations where a receipt does prove to be useful, such as a product return or disputed credit card charge, is the actual paper receipt at the point of sale really necessary? With all our iPhones and Blackberries and the like, couldn't an electronic receipt fill the exact same purpose with a lot less waste? This recent post by software advisor Don Fornes makes a pretty compelling case for ditching the paper receipt. Please take a minute to take his poll about paper receipts. And please do make that coffee extra hot, but hold sugar and the thermal paper.