The economy and the environment are undoubtedly linked. Many major economic activities have a detrimental effect on the environment – the burning of coal, oil and gas contributes to climate change, while waste from factories and production facilities pollutes our land, rivers and sea.
The effects of climate change and natural disasters can affect the global economy too. For example, the floods in Thailand in 2011 resulted in over $45 billion of economic losses, according to the Bank of England.
But, on a smaller scale, have you considered the effects your credit cards and cash have on the environment?
Credit cards have the potential to keep our environmental impact low – they last for several years and, unlike cash, never go out of circulation. But credit cards aren’t completely eco-friendly:
One of the major drawbacks to credit cards from an environmental perspective is the plastic they’re made of – PVC plastic. This is tough to recycle, which is why many expired credit cards end up in landfills.
According to an article posted by Slate.com in 2009, it takes roughly 4.25 grams of petroleum to manufacture one credit card. When multiplied by 1.6 billion—the number of credit, debit, and ATM cards produced in America in 2007—we’re looking at roughly 45,000 barrels of oil a year to make credit cards.
Another important factor to consider is that, as consumers, we are more likely to buy more products using our credit cards than we are using cash. Credit cards encourage us to buy more, and more often than not, those items will eventually be thrown away.
Paper money has its downsides too:
In the USA, a $5 bill typically lasts just 16 months before it wears down so much that it’s taken out of circulation. According to BBC’s Science Focus Magazine, £5 notes typically only last for a year whereas the £50 notes last around 5 years.
The currency itself is made from a blend of cotton and linen—products that may be renewable but whose cultivation requires a lot of land and other resources. Conventional cotton farming can be particularly harmful towards the environment, due to its heavy use of water, pesticides, and fertilizers.
It’s worth noting the environmental effects of card terminals as well- an element that is often overlooked. A 2017 study produced by the De Nederlandsche Bank titled ‘Evaluating the environmental impact of debit card payments’ produced some interesting insights on the environmental effects of card terminals in the Netherlands alone:
They found that terminal distributors advise customers to never disconnect a terminal from the power supply in order to ensure software updates can happen frequently. By this logic, it can be assumed that all payment terminals are switched on 24/7.
The report then identified the amount of energy used to power one individual terminal. They noted: “different phases such as reading the card, creating an authorization message, or individually printing each card require different peaks of energy. The average total energy use per transaction per terminal is 0.23 Wh. Per day, per terminal this is 6.18 Wh, and for all terminals in the Netherlands in 2015 this is ~702 MWh (including both payment terminals with and without printing functionality).”
The DnB estimates that payment terminals account for 75% of the environmental harm caused by credit card transactions – “mainly due to their materials (37%), represented largely by the printed wiring board, and integrated circuit, and energy consumption (27%).”
Although these statistics are taken from one particular country, it can be assumed that other western countries have a similar problem. Moreover, it’s likely that in countries such as the UK and the USA where there is more consumption, these figures would be much higher.
How switching to Yay! can help your business become more eco-friendly:
Yay! eliminates the need for card terminals. Small businesses no longer need to rely on owning plastic card terminals – customers pay for their products by scanning a QR code on your electronic device.
Paying for something using Yay! doesn’t produce any paper receipts. Customers receive their receipts directly via email.
- Small businesses and service providers no longer have to accept cash only. As we mentioned earlier in the blog post, less cash in circulation is definitely a good thing for the environment. But less cash also means potentially fewer trips to the bank via transport.
- Mobile payments are the future. By switching to Yay!, your business could be a step forward to reducing the number of credit cards produced and the amount of cash in circulation.