A composting bin

Can I put receipts in my compost bin?

NO ✋🏼

You can't put receipts into your composting bin!

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5+ years

Get the right balance of brown and green composting materials in your bin with our expert guide.

Why We Should Not Compost Receipts: Understanding the Risks

The Dangers of Thermal Paper in Composting

As environmentally conscious individuals, we always strive to reduce waste and contribute to a healthier planet through composting. However, it's crucial to understand that not all paper products are safe to include in our compost bins. One such example is receipts. Despite being made of paper, most receipts are printed on thermal paper, which contains chemicals that can be harmful to plants, animals, and the composting process itself.

What is Thermal Paper?

Thermal paper is a special type of paper that relies on a chemical reaction to produce printed text or images. This paper is coated with a mixture of chemicals that are sensitive to heat. When exposed to the heat from a thermal printer, the chemicals react and change color, creating the desired print without the need for ink. While this technology is convenient and widely used for receipts, it poses significant risks when it comes to composting.

The Presence of BPA and BPS in Receipts

The most common chemicals found in thermal paper are bisphenol A (BPA) and its related compound, bisphenol S (BPS). These chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors, meaning they can mimic or interfere with the natural hormone activity in living organisms. Exposure to BPA and BPS has been linked to various health issues, including reproductive problems, developmental disorders, and even certain types of cancers.

The Risks of Composting Receipts

When receipts printed on thermal paper are added to a compost pile, the chemicals within the paper can break down and release BPA and BPS into the compost. As compost is often used to enrich soil in gardens or agricultural settings, these harmful chemicals can potentially contaminate the soil, harming plants, soil organisms, and even the food grown in that soil. Moreover, the presence of these chemicals in compost can also pose risks to animals that may come into contact with or ingest the contaminated material.

Proper Disposal of Receipts

To ensure the safety of our compost and the environment, it is best to avoid adding receipts to our composting bins altogether. Instead, we should dispose of receipts in the regular trash. While it may seem counterintuitive to send paper to a landfill, the potential risks associated with composting thermal paper far outweigh the benefits.

Alternative Composting Materials

There are plenty of other paper products that are safe and beneficial to include in our compost bins. These include uncoated paper, such as office paper, newspaper, and cardboard. These materials are excellent carbon-rich additions to compost and can help balance the nitrogen-rich green materials like food scraps and grass clippings. By focusing on composting safe paper products, we can continue to reduce waste and contribute to a healthier environment without putting our compost, plants, or animals at risk. Consider reading our ebook, Master the Green-brown mix, to learn more about creating the perfect compost balance.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I compost receipts if I shred them first?

No, even if receipts are shredded, the thermal paper they are printed on still contains harmful chemicals like BPA and BPS, which can contaminate your compost. If you need to shred receipts for security purposes, consider using a compost shredder for your other compostable materials.

2. Are there any types of receipts that are safe to compost?

Some businesses may use biodegradable or compostable receipt paper, but these are not common. Unless you are certain that a receipt is printed on safe, compostable paper, it is best to avoid composting it. For more information on what materials are safe to compost, visit the EPA's composting guide.

3. Can I recycle receipts instead of composting them?

Most recycling facilities do not accept thermal paper receipts due to the presence of chemicals. It is best to dispose of them in the regular trash to avoid contaminating recycling streams.

4. Are there any alternatives to traditional thermal paper receipts?

Some businesses offer digital receipts sent via email or text message, which eliminates the need for physical receipts and reduces paper waste. If you do receive a digital receipt, consider storing it in a dedicated folder on your computer or mobile device using a kitchen compost pail as a visual reminder to organize your digital receipts.

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