Back in 2018, Vox reporter Rachel Sugar investigated the reasoning behind those annoying long receipts you receive at CVS stores. As it turns out, it’s not an accident; according to a statement, the drugstore intentionally prints out long receipts to show customers “rewards they’ve earned or what savings they can take advantage of,” which apparently, takes a few feet of explanation on paper.
Here’s another probable newsflash for you (and most of the staff here at Lifehacker HQ): Those receipts probably aren’t recyclable, either. Many drugstore paper receipts are made from thermal paper. It’s a shiny paper that allows for printing by way of heat transfer, rather than ink, as Recycle Bank writes. The problem, however, is that thermal paper is often coated in bisphenol A or BPA, a chemical that’s shaped a little like estradiol, a type of estrogen.
Without diving too far into the scientific explanation, its resemblance to estrogen is problematic; too much estrogen can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer or even affect embryonic development. (The other issue is that it isn’t known how much BPA is enough to be considered harmful.) As a result of growing fears around BPA, New York City lawmakers have even proposed a ban on paper receipts.
Given all of these concerns, naturally, recyclers don’t look so fondly upon paper receipts, though some store receipts are recyclable and compostable. The difference between the thermal kind and your average paper, as Recycle Nation writes, is that thermal paper has a smooth, glossy appearance and most receipts you probably encounter fall into the latter category. (To make it easy on you, CVS stores print receipts on thermal paper, as do many other drug/pharmacy retailers.)
It also just depends on your local recycling program. What works in New York City may not be accepted in, say, Boise, Idaho. If you have doubts, contact your local recycler or do an online search for your curbside program’s rules to see whether they accept paper receipts.
And if you’re wondering how to curb your CVS-receipt habit, here’s a hack: Sign up for their ExtraCare program online and opt into its digital coupons and receipts options. Going forward, you won’t receive another print receipt, so you can avoid them piling up in your trash.