July 2, 2019
Planet Ark has partnered with paper specialists Alliance Paper to encourage businesses to adopt thermal paper till receipts that are better for our health and the environment.
The Queensland-based company are working with Planet Ark to put Aussie businesses on a roadmap that will eventually see all till receipts be free of chemicals of concern. The first step in the process is to raise awareness around the presence of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in till receipts currently used in many checkouts across Australia, and its potential health and environmental impacts.
BPA is a low-cost industrial chemical used for the coatings on thermal paper (the paper that till receipts are made out of) because of its stability and heat resistance. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it can interfere with the system in the human body that produces and manages hormones.
Handling till receipts that contain BPA can lead to absorption of the chemical through the skin. There are concerns that frequent exposure may have adverse reproductive health effects. This is particularly concerning for anyone who handles till receipts on a daily basis, such as checkout operators and retail assistants. As the chemical is not readily biodegradable, there is also concern that it could accumulate in our waterways and make its way into the food chain.
BPA was first raised as a chemical of concern in baby bottles, where it was voluntarily phased out by major Australian retailers in 2010. While there are no plans to restrict use of the chemical in till receipts in Australia, despite regulations in place in Europe*, Alliance Paper has opted to use alternatives to BPA of its own accord.
Based on studies of the health effects of BPA on animals and extrapolating to humans, BPA is undoubtedly hazardous at high levels of exposure. Humans are exposed to much lower levels of BPA in their day-to-day lives, and scientific opinion is divided over what risk, if any, that level poses to humans. However, there is growing scientific evidence that even at these lower levels of exposure, BPA may be causing problems such as infertility, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Planet Ark supports initiatives that limit our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and has entered into partnership with Alliance Paper due to The Precautionary Principle, which states that “when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
*The European Parliament and the Council passed Regulation (EU) No. 2016/ 2235 requiring that thermal paper with a BPA concentration equal or higher than 0.02 wt% will no longer be allowed to be marketed from 2 January 2020 onwards.
Rachael joined Planet Ark in 2019 after eight years working in media and publishing as a producer, editor and writer. Rachael is excited to use her skills in content creation and communication to instigate positive environmental behaviour change.