Forum: Businesses should cut down on paper receipts

A receipt bring printed following a transaction.
A receipt bring printed following a transaction.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

I would like to appeal to businesses to cut down on the use of paper to print receipts for customers. Make printed copies available only upon request. Receipts can also be e-mailed to customers.

Supermarket receipts are long. The information is already displayed as the cashier scans the items and at self-checkout terminals. A printed receipt is not really necessary.

Many restaurants these days offer electronic ordering. This platform is ideal for the adoption of a fully electronic process. After the meal, patrons should be able to view their bill on tablets to confirm it, and enter their e-mail address to have a copy sent to them.

Fast-food restaurants also give out long receipts which are mostly thrown away the moment the food is collected or consumed.

I visited McDonald's and found out that the receipt from the self-ordering kiosks is at least 8cm wide and 28cm long, even for ordering a single item. That is almost the length of a sheet of A4 paper. I am not sure how much paper is discarded this way daily.

A smaller slip containing just the order number or, even better, an SMS with the order number sent to a mobile phone, can be used instead.

In the past, credit card charge slips were necessary because of the need to physically sign on the slips. Many transactions these days use wireless technology, and a signature is no longer required. The amount to be charged is already displayed on the wireless terminal for verification. Many of us simply throw away the slips after a glance. The default option should be to e-mail these slips to the patron. Printed copies should be available only upon request.

Business owners can save costs on paper in the long run with some expenditure upfront to tweak their point-of-sale process. The National Environment Agency can lead the way, possibly through technology grants.

Let's reduce wastage, conserve the environment and extend the life of our landfill.

Lim Kong Hiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2019, with the headline 'Businesses should cut down on paper receipts'. Subscribe