Think about how many times each day, each week, each month you’re given that tiny slip of paper which ends up crumpled up and tossed into the nearest rubbish bin. If you were to keep each of these slips you’d probably collect kilogram upon kilogram of paper during your lifetime.
But the majority of till slips aren’t collected, they’re thrown away and pile up on already giant landfills. The question must be asked: Why are we still given these slips after every transaction? To be fair, some slips include legally binding information and you’ll be glad to have kept them when you want to return that product or query that transaction. But those instances are rare.
Impact on the planet
No one wants these slips. But we currently don’t have much choice in the matter. The reality is these small pieces of paper are so much more than a mere annoyance. They are costing us much of our hard-earned money and the planet its precious resources. It takes more than 900 million litres of oil, 10 million trees and nearly 4 billion litres of water to create the receipts for the United States alone, generating almost one billion kilograms of waste.
In addition, CO2 – the greenhouse gas responsible for global warming – is discharged during both the production and destruction of the paper. It has been estimated that the amount of CO2 emitted during the production process of just one ton of paper is equal to the exhaust fumes given off by a car driving for an entire year. That’s the equivalent of 640,000 cars driving around all day, every day just to produce the receipts needed by the United States.
Startling statistics like these are starting to jolt people into taking action. More and more people are becoming increasingly aware of their consumption and waste, choosing to live more eco-friendly lifestyles. Even the most green-conscious are perplexed by the issue of till slips. Bea Johnson, blogger and author of bestselling book Zero Waste Homes, said she’s looking forward to a world of digital till slips but in the meantime refuses and reuses them.
“I reuse my grocery store receipts (the back is blank) for my car notepad held together with a metal clip, and then recycle it or use it in my homemade paper. I like to keep an eye on what they charge me, they often make mistakes,” she said. “Although my recycling hauler tells me to recycle all my receipts, I have read that not all receipts are recyclable (shiny type for example) so I prefer to reuse as many as possible. There are some great business models out there for a receipt-free future. Can’t wait.”
Change is coming
Digital till slips, or e-receipts as they’re known, are becoming more common in certain countries like the US and UK. But adoption remains slow. Across the US, the use of digital till slips is just a tiny fraction of the paper slips given out at brick-and-mortar stores, said Jack Gold, president of the research firm J. Gold Associates, in an interview with CNBC. He said young people are more likely to be comfortable with receiving an electronic slip, while older generations still wanted to walk out of shops with a paper slip in hand.
“Retailers have to tread carefully. They want to move to this new technology, but they can’t move until their customer base is ready. The market is not going to change in one fell swoop,” he told CNBC. “People who think we’re magically going to switch over to digital receipts in the next two or three years are wrong.”
UK-based company Paperless Receipts conducted research about the willingness of shoppers to switch to digital versions. “Our research shows that 90% of individuals would prefer to have receipts digitally stored in a cloud account rather than collecting paper receipts, while 50% of individuals would purposefully buy from a retailer who offered this service over a paper receipt issuer,” said chief executive Andrew Carroll. He agreed that young people were more likely to use digital versions as they were already used to online banking and cellphone payments.
A number of concerns have been raised by the public in opposition to digital slips. There appears to be a lack of understanding about how the slips will be stored online. “I am against this in the same way that I am against Internet banking, without a receipt, how can you prove a transaction has taken place?” wrote one online commenter.
Another added: “This has nothing to do with saving paper and everything to do with marketing. When they get your email address they will bombard you with special offers tailored to your buying habits.” These concerns have been roundly rebuffed, with the creators of digital slips explaining they can be used in the same ways as paper slips, and won’t lead to increased email marketing.
Local is lekker
Happily, moves are being made locally to adopt digital solutions for till slips. At least two companies, Greenslip and Pocketslip, have created apps which will see all till slips stored online and being accessible from cellphones. According to Greenslip (also available as a free app), the company leading the charge in SA, it will be the smart way to keep your receipts, saving all slips and warranties easily online. “Opting for a Greenslip at a cash point instead of plain old paper saves 12 meters of chemically treated paper per month, per user,” reads its website.
“Happily, moves are being made locally to adopt digital solutions for till slips”
The concept behind Greenslip originated in 2013 to counteract the incredible amount of waste that paper receipts result in, coupled with the well-known frustration of trying to locate these receipts when trying to return items still under warranty.
The digital option provides a secure and easily referenced cloud storage solution, while lessening the impact on the planet in terms of paper wastage. The Greenslip app even provides a budgeting facility, to assist cost-conscious consumers drawing up their monthly shopping list. According to Lloyd Samassa, Industry Lead of Greenslip, the company is in advanced negotiations with major retailers in SA to adopt the system, so the future may arrive sooner than we think.
Mainstream adoption of digital slips appears inevitable. This is the one move which could contribute to saving the planet at the same time as saving you money. It is not a matter of if but when.
*This article originally appeared on MWEB.