Retailers spend millions printing non-recyclable paper receipts, but why? Digital receipts are better for shoppers — and sustainability objectives.

Being a green business is often easier said than done. Especially when you get pushback from senior execs about embracing sustainable practices; ‘If it costs more than what we’re doing today, what’s the ROI?’ you may hear them ask.

And so CSR leaders are left walking a tight rope — trying to find ways of working that help protect the future wellbeing of planet Earth, move with changing customer expectations, and grow the business’s bottom line,

It’s a lot to take on. But sometimes, the simplest ideas are the most powerful: what would happen if we stopped wasting resources and squandering margins by replacing paper receipts with digital ones?

Paper receipts carry high costs while adding very little value

According to Zurich, 75% of consumers want brands to help them live more sustainably but are UK retail businesses doing all that they can to deliver? It doesn’t seem that way when it comes to receipts.

Take a look on social media and you’ll see shoppers calling out a number of UK retailers for continuing to produce paper receipts as standard — and, sometimes, not even offering an opt-out.

“Your self checkout’s new software no longer gives opt out of paper receipt. This is a waste of resources and environmentally damaging. Please acknowledge and respond for comment.” one Twitter user wrote back in 2019 in relation to a top UK supermarket.

This is just one example. It’s possible, even probable, that many UK retailers haven’t grasped the positive impact on the environment, costs, and customer experience, a move away from paper receipts would deliver.

It’s estimated that at least £32 million is spent printing receipts each year. Over 200,000 trees are felled each year to create paper receipts.

If we put that into a currency we’re all much more familiar with today, it’s the same as producing 32,500,000 plastic carrier bags. No wonder conscious consumers are frustrated with retailers’ mixed messaging.

Shoppers are ready for a better receipt experience

We touched on the emotive response shoppers have with paper receipts in 2022, but these little slips of, mostly non-recyclable, paper don’t work in practice either. 90% of paper receipts are lost, thrown away or become too faded to use.

So how do we redesign receipts for a sustainable future? One idea is to email a digital receipt to shoppers, asking for their email address at the checkout. Another is to make not printing a paper receipt the default — asking shoppers to opt-in, rather than out, just like the hospitality industry did with straws.

But neither of these solutions is perfect. Asking shoppers to provide their email address at the till is time-consuming, risking both the customer experience and the retailer’s sales. Research shows that long lines at the grocery checkout reduce basket sizes, so adding more friction to the checkout process can’t be the way to go.

Opt-in strategies are already rolling out across many self-checkout tills in the UK, but that still leaves shoppers without the required paperwork to facilitate returns or keep a track of spending.

Digital receipts can be integrated into a customer’s banking app

Remember how I said that the simplest ideas are the most powerful? Flux’s platform was a long time in the making, but now that it’s here, we can’t believe it hadn’t been done already.

Flux’s technology generates a digital receipt directly into a customer’s banking app for every transaction made through a linked credit or debit card, removing the need for paper receipts entirely. This produces huge overhead reduction opportunities for retailers — no more paper, printing, storage and waste removal costs — while also reducing the business’s carbon footprint and taking non-recyclable, toxic receipt paper out of circulation.

Crucially, though, the shopper’s receipt experience is improved as well. There’s no chance they’ll lose a receipt, and they don’t need to change their behaviour at the checkout because everything happens automatically in their banking app. Digital receipts in banking apps are delivered within seven seconds on average, and are already available at KFC, Pure, schuh and H&M for customers that bank with Starling, Barclays and Monzo.

If those benefits weren’t enough to get buy-in from otherwise hesitant stakeholders, then there’s also the marketing potential that Flux’s digital receipts unlock. When integrated into a banking app, digital receipts associate individual customers with the items they’ve bought — this gives ‘offline’ businesses, like bricks-and-mortar retailers, access to new levels of customer behaviour data. Where previously retailers may have used loyalty cards, apps, or eCommerce to gather data, there’s now the opportunity to do this seamlessly via credit and debit cards. Even better, retailers are able to incorporate cashback rewards to better engage offline customers and drive product-level sales, with full attribution.

We know that the future of retail has to be sustainable. And with digital receipts, we get the best of all worlds: happy customers, a healthier environment and tangible commercial benefits, too.

Flux is a digital receipts and offers platform that lives inside a customer’s banking app and is accessible directly via Using Flux is completely seamless for both customers and retailers, requiring no additional apps, QR codes or sharing email addresses at the point of checkout.

To find out more about Flux and the services they provide to the retail industry, click here.

This article was also published in The Retailer, our quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.