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Receipt Eradication…

So as you know if you’re been around here long, the ‘Hood is not the most halcyon corner of Lovely Uptown Phoenix. The area is richly decorated with homeless drug addicts, most of whom are harmless. More alarmingly, it’s frequented by burglars, car thieves, porch pirates, and assorted other interesting wildlife. One species of these is the identity thief. These creatures scavenge in the garbage and recycling bins, searching for pieces of paper bearing someone’s identifying information. About 95 percent of the junkmail that the postman brings — just about all that he brings these days, by the bushel — fills that bill. But it can easily be disposed of with my current crook-repellent scheme: drop it in a plastic bag with some dog mounds and a little water and let it marinate for awhile before throwing it in the garbage. That’s fine for the usual junk mail and credit-card offers…but credit- and debit-card receipts are a different critter altogether.

And by this time of year, I’ve got a lot of them. I like to hang onto receipts for awhile, lest I need to return something, confirm that a charge was actually made, or ask some question about a purchase. After a year of stashing random pieces of paper into storage, there’s enough kindling there to set fire to the Parthenon.

Getting rid represents what we call, in capital letters, A Nuisance. My paper shredder will only handle a few at a time. Sitting there running fistful after fistful of receipts through that thing is a time-consuming, eye-glazing hassle. But it’s also a hassle to drive the junk down to the annual community Shred-Fest, stand in line, and keep an eye on the proceedings to be sure whatever you put in there actually does get ground up.

T’other day an INSIGHT visited me: the stuff that’s used to print receipts isn’t actually ink. It’s a sort of powdery substance that’s shot on the (interestingly health-threatening) paper in the shape of letters and numbers. Maybe…just maybe the stuff would rinse off in water. If it would…well! Then you could take the whole pile of debris, toss it in a bucket, pour some water and detergent and maybe a shot of Clorox over it, and voilà! Problem solved.

A brief experiment with this idea showed that, amazingly enough, it works. You don’t even have to swish the paper scraps around in the water: get them wet, and the printout (not the ads on the backsides) fades right away.

Hm. No grinding. No schlepping. No burning. Nice!

Now, there’s one thing you should be aware of, and that is that cash-register receipts are printed on paper that contains toxins: BPA and BPS. This stuff, you don’t want to get on your hands…or inside your pockets, or inside your wallet. But of course you can’t help that unless you decline to accept a receipt or ask for an emailed receipt (creating yet another time-sucking hassle). At any rate, you certainly don’t want to burn these things in the family-room fireplace.

Wot the hell: after seven decades of wallowing in cash-register receipts, I have yet to die. But still: knowing about yet another health hazard, you’ll want to minimize your fiddling with the things — maybe use rubber gloves during the elimination process.

So here’s how this went:

  1. I dumped the collected receipts in a plastic scrub bucket.
  2. Then poured in just enough water to cover them — added a squirt of Dawn detergent.
  3. Let it set while I went on about my business.
  4. Couple hours later, came back to find a bucketful of blank receipts.
  5. These I poured into a sturdy black lawn bag (new, leak-free) set down inside a plastic trash can so as to simplify holding it open.
  6. Dumped the last few days’ collection of dog mounds in on top of the slurry and quickly tied off the top.
  7. Dropped the package into the alley garbage bin.

The papers were already dissolving, so except for the plastic bag (and the BPA…and the BPS…), this stuff should biodegrade fairly fast. You can buy compostable plastic lawn bags at the Depot and at Amazon, and those would be the things to use for this purpose. And for just about any other bagging purpose.

Finally, step 8: wash out the scrub bucket.

Since this bucket is used for mopping the floors, obviously I didn’t want the BPA and the BPS smeared all over the house. It probably would be better to use an old paint can and reserve it just for this purpose. But not having one around…  I placed the bucket in the garage work sink (do not clean out the bucket in a bathroom or kitchen sink or tub, or in any sink that’s likely to be used for cleaning clothes or washing dishes). Dumped in some more Dawn and filled it with the hottest water I could draw out of the tap.

Went off and let it set for another couple of hours. Then came back, scrubbed the bucket with a brush, and poured the contaminated water down the drain.

Rinse out the bucket well after this step, obviously.

Do I like dealing with contaminated paper and contaminated water? Hell, no. But in terms of my own health, it’s probably safer to get it wet than to grind it up and spew powdery BPA/BPS dust into the house’s or the garage’s air. For future reference: to avoid exposure to the stuff through this avenue, ask for an emailed receipt or decline to accept a receipt unless it’s for something you might want to return.