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Paper receipts preferred by consumers despite environmental misconceptions

Independent research reveals that the majority of consumers prefer paper receipts over digital alternatives. The research surveyed 8,883 consumers across Europe and North America and found that 69% of UK consumers prefer paper receipts over digital alternatives and 76% believe paper receipts are more practical for returning goods.

Despite the overwhelming preference for paper receipts, many consumers are concerned about paper's impact on the environment and underestimate the impact of digital receipts. For example, 54% of Brits believe that digital receipts are better for the environment than paper receipts and 38% believe that the sending of emails has no environmental impact. In reality, total emissions generated by worldwide emails is estimated to be 300 million tonnes of CO2 a year equivalent to the annual emissions of 63 million cars.

Greg Selfe, Campaign Manager for Choose Paper, said: "The environmental performance of paper manufacturers has improved significantly in the past several decades, including considerable investment into sustainable forestry practices. Sustainably managed forests breathe for the Earth, absorbing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and producing the oxygen we require in return. By storing that carbon, forests help to regulate the global climate, absorbing nearly 40% of the fossil-fuel emissions produced by humans.2

"In considering a move to digital alternatives to paper receipts, consumers and retailers need to bear in mind that this option is not free of environmental impacts. Server farms and data centres require vast amounts of energy to operate, with many using fossil fuels as their source. As technology progresses, the demand on these data centres increases and so does the carbon footprint. In fact, the share of digital technology in global GHG emissions could reach 8% by 2025, i.e. the current share of car emissions.3,4,5 This is roughly eight times the current share of the pulp, paper and print industries."

It isn't just the environmental facts that the Choose Paper campaign wants to highlight to retailers and consumers. There is another issue at play - that of trust and data protection.

Nearly two thirds (64%) of UK consumers would be unhappy if stores no longer offered paper receipts, and 46% would not trust a retailer that did not offer paper receipts. Furthermore, 62% of UK consumers are concerned that their transaction history stored electronically may be used by organisations for unsolicited marketing purposes.

"Our research shows that most people do not want digital receipts. Consumers prefer and trust paper and there is the very real worry about data security that needs to be considered," adds Greg. "Customers are only hearing one side of the argument and there is a risk that consumer choice is being taken away. Choose Paper calls upon retailers to respect their customers' preferences and consider the environmental facts before adopting digital-only solutions."

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