/ Shopping

Receipt sir? Yes, send it to my email please

Every year, British retailers give us 11.2bn paper receipts, at a cost of £32m. These apparently weigh over 7.5m kilograms – around the same as 1,380 male elephants. Is it time to switch to digital receipts?

According to receipt processing and management service ExpenseMagic, if you put those 11.2bn receipts end-to-end they’d measure 1.8m kilometres. That’s equivalent to 140 times around the equator, or the same as going to the moon and back twice.

What a colossal waste of paper.

The charm of a paper receipt

Still, I’m in two minds about this. After switching to online banking and billing, I’m happy that my doormat isn’t covered in piles of post (apart from the odd junk mail).

But I still think there’s something reassuring about getting a paper receipt when you’re shopping on the high street. You can pop it in your wallet and keep it just in case you need to return your purchase. You can even keep it as a souvenir in order to remember that special day out with your significant other (or not).

Yet, when I look at US retailers, like Apple, Sears, K-mart, Gap, Banana Republic and Best Buy, issuing digital e-receipts for their customers, I start to think about the amount of paper, money and wallet space we could save in ole Blighty.

With many UK shops now offering contactless payments, perhaps it’s time they modernised further and ditched paper receipts altogether?

Bulging wallet – money or receipts?

It was only yesterday that the Which? Convo team was denied a discount on our pub grub, due to this particular establishment refusing a digital voucher. They were adamant that they needed a paper copy to put into their till – we were keen to push them into the 21st Century.

Most of the time paper receipts wallow in my wallet, building up over the weeks before they make it impossible to shove my wallet into my back pocket. Then comes the task of sorting them into the ones you want and the ones you don’t, and then shredding the latter so you can dispose of them safely and responsibly.

With an e-receipt, there’s no such problem. Pop them into a secure folder in your email inbox, or sort them into a spreadsheet – job done.

Paper, scissors, phone

Of course, there are a few negatives to digital receipts. You’ll have to give retailers your email address, which then potentially leaves you open to their maddening marketing messages. Sure, that might be good for them, but not so much for us.

Perhaps they’ll soon be able to ping e-receipts directly to our smartphones when we swipe for a contactless payment, hence removing the need for an email.

Of course, if you don’t have a smartphone or rarely use your email, digital receipts might not be suitable. My response would be to say that if Britain’s retailers can at least start offering e-receipts to those of us who want them, maybe we can stop wasting so much paper.

Should shops offer digital e-receipts?

Maybe - as long as I can choose between paper and digital receipts (45%, 148 Votes)

Yes - I'd like receipts emailed to me (29%, 94 Votes)

No - I like getting paper receipts (26%, 87 Votes)

Total Voters: 330

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“1.8km. That’s equivalent to 140 times around the equator, or the same as going to the moon and back twice.” Really ? Im guessing you’re not meaning km = kilometer then


Sorry about that Will, I meant 1.8m kilometres. Edited.


No probs. I just hope they’re using recycled paper and not helping to cut down rainforests. Now that’s a scary thought.


Indeed, well, in the US an estimated 9.6m trees are apparently used annually to produce paper receipts.

Stephen says:
29 April 2012

The report said 1.8m kilometres in the first place. William should have read more carefully before criticising.


My original comment in quotes was cut and pasted directly from this web page. (I’m too lazy to re type it). Patrick has since corrected it. Maybe someone should have read the whole thread and you’ll see Patrick thanking me and commenting he’s edited it. Sigh


Hi Stephen, just to mention – as William says, he pointed out a mistake that I then fixed following his comment. Thanks.

Ricki says:
7 February 2015