You know when you go to CVS, and you ring up your toothpaste and your fruit snacks, and before you can carry on with your day, you must wait three to 30 minutes for two whole miles of receipt to spew forth from the printer? Hey guess what! You may — may — soon get a whole bunch of your life back (at least if you spend a lot of time pharmacy shopping) because the City Council is considering a ban on some paper receipts. Not just because they're wasteful, which of course they are, but because they could potentially endanger your reproductive health.
Not what you were expecting, huh?
Apparently, most receipts have either a BPS (bisphenol S) or BPA (bisphenol A) coating, which makes them all waxy and creepy to the touch. Of those two, BPA — a chemical ingredient in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins — is probably the more familiar to you. You may recall that big flap over cancer-causing water bottles and Tupperware a few years back? The culprit there was BPA, which has also been linked to fertility issues, heart disease, and problems in fetal development. Nonetheless, the FDA considers BPA safe at low levels, and allows BPA use in some plastic food containers, the lining of cans, and on your receipts.
In February, however, a new study came out that highlighted another BPA risk: Exposure during pregnancy, which may interfere with ovarian development and translate to infertility. The authors said they found "mounting evidence" for BPA's adverse effects, particularly during the prenatal period.
It may momentarily calm you to know that many manufacturers have now replaced BPA with BPS in their products; unfortunately, the Scientific American reports, BPS may not be a better alternative. BPS can interfere with cellular function, potentially raising a person's risk of diabetes, asthma, birth defects, cancer, and more. And according to Scientific American, most people in this country have detectable levels of BPS in their urine. Danger lurks in the most innocuous-seeming places! Like, for example, receipts. As Council Speaker Corey Johnson explained to Brian Lehrer earlier this week, an estimated 93 percent of paper receipts are coated in hormone-disrupting BPA or BPS.
Then, past the dangers posed to the human body, your floor-length scrolls also take an astronomical environmental toll, not least because plastic-coated paper tends not to be recyclable.
"Annually, in the United States, receipts consume 3 million trees a year, 9 billion gallons of water," Johnson said, presumably citing this report from Green America. "They generate 302 pounds of solid waste and over 4 billion pounds of CO2. It's the equivalent of 450,000 cars on the road."
And nobody needs that.
As such, the Council will consider a package of four bills that would obligate NYC business to offer customers electronic receipts, or the option to skip the receipt entirely. The Council would also like to make paper receipts recyclable, and provide alternatives to BPA/BPS paper. The legislation will be introduced in early 2020.
"How many New Yorkers go to the Duane Reade ... and see a literally foot-long receipt, and you bought two things," Johnson said, possibly thinking of CVS. "It doesn't make any sense." It defies all logic, allowing these silent killers to roam free, snaking out of trash cans and contaminating the bottom of all your bags with their toxic scourge. We cannot let them win.