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Shorewood Public Library, other branches get rid of toxic receipt paper

Posted at 10:59 AM, Oct 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-08 20:14:13-04

Libraries in Milwaukee County are taking a big step to get rid of toxic paper that could hurt your health.

The idea to switch the receipt paper came from Meenal Atre, a regular at the Shorewood Public Library.

"My goal was to just have the Shorewood Library make that decision and switch to phenol-free paper," said Atre. "The conventional receipts have a chemical in them called bisphenol, which is considered an endocrine disrupter."

These are also known as chemicals that can interfere with hormones. Some scientists believe those chemicals can cause cancer if someone is repeatedly exposed.

A recent study from the Ecology Center's Healthy Stuff Program found more than 200 receipts from 150 businesses tested positive for the chemical.

"It's in almost all of the receipts," said Atre.

Rachel Collins, the Shorewood Library director, said the switch to phenol-free receipts costs them about $135 more per year.

"It never crossed my mind that there could be toxins or anything wrong with our receipts," said Collins.

She was on board right away.

"It was a no-brainer that we didn't want our staff working with this or the public, but the staff in particular with these eight-hour shifts, five-hour shifts of touching this paper again and again," said Collins.

Collins brought the idea to the Milwaukee County Federated Library System. Most branches switched to phenol-free receipts. Others are in the process.

"I love the fact that it was really started with one person who is really driven," said Collins.

Atre had no idea her idea would take off like this.

"It is possible to start small and make a small difference that can have big impact," said Atre. "You just have to go with it."

Going phenol-free is also safer for the environment.