Cash Register Receipts in Compost

dlangend1120February 11, 2012

I am cleaning out my files and have tons of cash register receipts that I don't want to just throw in the recycling. Do you think the ink/toner from cash registers will poison my compost? I searched and it appears nobody else has come across this dilemma.

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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

Dang, I am so glad that you asked that because I've been wondering that as well in the last couple weeks. I noticed that the cash register receipts are glossier than plain old office paper and I don't like the sort of choking smell that they have either.

I am confident that someone on this forum will have the answer. This is the best forum on Gardenweb--we have to most extreme obsessive-compulsive gardeners and composters and it is simply the best!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 5:47PM
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Nevermore44 - 6a

i believe it uses thermal printing.. so the paper is impregnated with the ink. I can't see it being the same soy ink used in standard printing... but i am not a scientist by any means. I would shred and recycle if possible.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 6:02PM
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This is from Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Rapid Research, August 2010 (Updated November 2010)

Thermal paper receipts contain BPA. Is it a good idea to recycle thermal receipts?

Key Findings
� Thermal paper recycling is a major source of bisphenol A (BPA) release to surface waters. PPRC
recommends disposing of all thermal paper receipts in the trash rather than the recycle bin to reduce
environmental release of BPA. Trash disposal and subsequent wastewater treatment of landfill leachate
should significantly reduce emissions of BPA.
� Recycling thermal paper may increase human exposure to BPA via cross-contamination of food from
recycled paper products. BPA has been found in paper towels and other likely food contact papers, and at
higher levels in recycled versus virgin papers.
� Recent results suggest that simple handling of thermal paper receipts transfers BPA to hands and fingers.
The amounts transferred, microgram quantities, are substantially greater than the amounts of BPA that
leach from can-linings or polycarbonate containers under normal circumstances.
� Those concerned about exposure to BPA should take common sense measures to reduce contact with
thermal paper, e.g., refusing receipts at ATMs and gas pumps or other point-of-sale transactions,
minimizing handling of receipts, and washing hands following handling.
� Some manufacturers have replaced BPA in thermal paper with BPS. The US Environmental Protection
Agency is currently assessing the safety of alternatives to BPA in thermal paper through the Design for
Environment (DfE) Program. PPRC representatives are participating on the DfE BPA advisory committee.
� The identification and use of safer alternatives in consumer products is a promising long-term strategy to
effectively reduce the exposure of people to harmful chemicals.

I vote NO.

Here is a link that might be useful: Read for yourself

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 6:46PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Oh, that's great. I often keep register receipts and ATM slips in my wallet for days, where they get a lot of handling. Thanks for that excerpt.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 7:22PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

Ugh-o. Thank you. To the trash it is!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 9:26PM
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Yeah, bummer news, but thanks for the thorough answer!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 7:16AM
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I have bad news. Not only is BPA in cash register tape, it is showing up in most paper that is recycled with PCW (post consumer waste).

We have been reading the $30M studies on BPA that were funded by stimulus money, and the problem is serious. Also, beware of any register tape that is "BPA free". It might be BPS, its awful cousin. HINT: to tell if paper is thermal, which is the stuff actually coated with one of the heat sensitive phenols, rub the paper with a coin. If the friction discolors it, it is thermal. Wash your hands.
And stay away from alcohol sanitizers, since these act as a solvent so the skins absorbs up to ten times more than with simple dermal contact.
We are putting together a data base of the studies, and if anyone is interested, we will post it when we have it up to speed. I am glad you are talking about this, because it is a very serious, and so far mostly invisible problem.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 3:12PM
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The short answer is - it depends.

Thermal paper has chemical coatings on the surface of the paper. Bond paper doesn't have any coatings on the paper. Is the receipt shinny? It is probably thermal & is coated.

FYI: not all thermal paper has BPA. BPA is in the news, but the alternative is BPB & there hasn't been nearly enough studies on it to call it a safer alternative. Do some research on BPA & form your own opinion.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:27PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Since 2010 (when the info bi11me posted above was published), things have been moving along and there are definitely BPA free receipts available. However in a quick search I was not able to determine how much of the receipt business has switched over and how much still contains BPA.

There is no evidence one way or the other whether it would survive composting and actually end up in your vegetables in a significant dose.

Therefore, the cautious approach would be to not compost them for the time being.

My 'qualitative' opinion of the process is that it would take an awful lot of receipts to result in a significant dose. But OTOH receipts are a small volume of paper that goes through the average house, so not recycling them is not a big deal. I don't think I would put them in my compost.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 1:29PM
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BPA breaks down very rapidly in soil in aerobic conditions. Some studies have found a half-life of only 3 days in soil (see link below, and google 'bpa soil half life' for more). I think in an aerobic composter the BPA will be broken down very quickly. Furthermore, I have also seen references that many plants metabolize any BPA they take up into more harmless substances. So my policy is to compost receipts as that seems to be the most environmentally-friendly way to dispose of them. Because of the short half-life in soil, I don't hesitate to use that compost in my garden -- if any makes it through the composting process (doubtful, though I haven't seen studies), it won't last long in the garden.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fate of 14C-bisphenol A in soils

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 6:47PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Well done Randall! I used to do those kinds of env. fate studies with radiolabeled test compounds. Just didn't think of looking this up. It was the obvious next step.

It's clear now that *handling* BPA receipts will cause much more exposure than composting them.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:18PM
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