Research by polling company Toluna has found that UK consumers prefer paper receipts over digital ones, backing a global campaign aiming to raise awareness of the benefits of paper receipts.

The Choose Paper campaign surveyed 8,883 consumers across Europe and North America and found that 69% of UK consumers preferred paper receipts over digital ones and 76% think paper receipts are more practical for returning items.

Although the majority of consumers prefer paper receipts, many are worried about the impact of paper receipts on the environment but do not know the impact of digital receipts. According to research by Two Sides North America in 2018, 54% of British people think digital receipts are better for the environment than paper ones, and 33% believe sending emails does not affect the environment. However, is it estimated that 300 million tonnes of CO2 is generated worldwide by emails every year, the equivalent to annual emissions of 63 million cars.

Choose Paper campaign manager Greg Selfe 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.

“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. This is roughly eight times the current share of the pulp, paper and print industries.”

The campaign also wants to highlight trust and data issues that come with digital receipts; 64% of UK consumers would be unhappy if shops stopped offering paper receipts and 46% would not trust the retailer if it did not offer paper receipts. A further  62% are concerned about their transaction history being stored digitally and that it may be used for unsolicited purposes by other organisations.

Selfe added: “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. 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.”