The Environmental Impact of Paper Receipts at Christmas


Christmas is a time of huge excitement, with families all over the world gathering for traditional festivities with their nearest and dearest.

For many, gift giving is as much a part of Christmas as any other tradition, which means a considerable rise in the number of purchases of all sorts of items, from clothing and toiletries to electronics and our favourite festive treats. But this increase in spending can come with a downside, particularly when it comes to sustainability.

Why the use of paper receipts matters at Christmas

Paper receipts have a significant impact on the environment. Every paper receipt printed emits around 2.5g of carbon during its lifetime, from production and use to ultimately finding its way to landfill.

The sharp rise in spending during the Christmas period pushes up the use of paper receipts considerably, meaning those well-intended purchases could be doing the planet more harm than consumers might expect.

Let’s take a look at how many gifts the typical consumer buys in the run-up to Christmas. Recent research published by The Independent revealed that the average UK adult buys no less than 32 gifts every year, costing £420 per person.

Christmas presents tend to be purchased in a variety of stores, over different transactions. So we can assume that approximately 32 extra receipts are generated per person every Christmas. Consider the carbon footprint of a single receipt, and we can see that the additional carbon generated just for Christmas shopping is 80g for the average UK adult.

To put this carbon footprint into perspective, retail growth platform eyos retail analysed a number of different modes of transport, to demonstrate exactly what the carbon footprint of paper receipts means for the planet we live on.

eyos retail found that the carbon footprint of paper receipts during the Christmas period is so significant that it warrants comparison with everything from trains, buses and domestic flights to the production of environmentally-harmful disposable bags.

Paper receipts have a carbon footprint comparable to public transport

A carbon footprint of 80g is similar to the amount generated by two passengers travelling 1km on national rail or an intercity train. These transport options generate carbon of 82g per km, for two passengers. For the same amount of carbon (84g), 14 passengers could travel 1km on the Eurostar. Two passengers could even travel 1km on a domestic flight for 86g of carbon.

How the impact of travelling by car compares to paper receipt usage

Travelling by car is well known to be harmful to the environment, but how many of us have considered that the impact of paper receipts during Christmas isn’t that different?

A single passenger travelling 1km in a large plug-in hybrid electric vehicle will generate 77g of carbon. A motorcyclist would generate 84g of carbon travelling the same distance.

The carbon footprint of packaging production vs paper receipts

Awareness of the impact of disposable shopping bags has risen dramatically in recent years, with far more consumers opting to take reusable bags with them when they visit their local stores. However, the impact of the production, use and disposal of plastic bags isn’t dissimilar from the effect of using paper receipts during the festive period.

For the 80g of additional carbon generated for each consumer’s Christmas shopping, 27 lightweight bags could’ve been produced. Eight bags for life could also be produced for the same carbon footprint, while seven paper bags would come with a similar footprint of 84g.

How to improve sustainability during the festive period

There’s a huge amount of work that needs to be done to improve sustainability during the festive period. But some eco-friendly swaps are easier to make than others. One simple way that stores and retailers can slash their carbon footprint is by making the switch to digital receipts.

By removing the option of paper receipts, stores can make a real difference to the planet, and their customers.

Paper receipts are not recyclable, due to chemicals used in their production. These receipts can also be toxic, with many containing the same chemicals found in single-use plastics. This presents a danger to the environment and it’s also potentially harmful to those handling receipts regularly, like retail staff.

Every year, an estimated 200,000 trees are destroyed solely for the production of paper receipts. This is of course catastrophic for the planet, and a contributing factor to the climate crisis many consumers are increasingly concerned about. It’s also entirely unnecessary, as digital receipt technology is now readily available.

It’s not just the environment that benefits every time a store switches to digital receipts, either. Digital receipts also come with added benefits that can help retailers improve the customer experience through the use of valuable data and insights.

Digital receipts can be easily customised, showing consumers how much their custom is valued by their preferred stores. They can also be used to gather important feedback, enabling brands to improve their customer service as they learn from their customers. Digital receipts can even optimise the omnichannel journey, allowing customers to leave reviews of their purchases in a single click.

There are promotional opportunities to explore with digital receipts, too. Digital receipts can be used to offer customers money off future purchases, along with other incentives to return to the store within a given time period.

Ultimately, digital receipts maximise engagement and allow stores to upsell in a way that paper receipts never could. And they do so without causing damage to the environment.

To find out more about the benefits of using digital receipts, take a look at eyos retail’s digital receipt solutions.

Contact eyos retail to learn more about digital receipts

If you’d like to find out more about the value of digital receipts for your business, get in touch with the eyos retail team.

eyos retail is one of the most preferred partners for digital receipts amongst leading high-street retailers world-wide. With eyos, retailers can cut their carbon footprint and start to identify in-store customers through digital receipts. This allows brands to connect 100% of in-store transactions to any platform they use in real-time, providing endless new marketing opportunities to help brands reach their true potential.

Contact eyos retail for more information or to arrange a demo.