Why going cashless is better for the environment

September 8, 2020

How much of an impact does cash have?

At Pomelo Pay, we are committed to keeping our carbon footprint low, and we work towards this by helping people go cashless. Have you ever considered the environmental impact of using cash? Unfortunately, most people do not realise the impact a cash-dependent business has on the environment.

Coins are incredibly damaging to the planet. According to the American Council of Science and Health, mining and transporting coins has led to the emission of over 48,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. For reference, the UK produces over 900,000 tonnes of coins every year.

So, notes must be better for the environment? Well, in fact polymer banknotes (the plastic ones we currently use in the UK) are worse for the environment than traditional paper notes.

Our new polymer banknotes were initially thought to be more sustainable, but new research by Evergreen Finance London has revealed that the paper £10 note released 3kg of Co2, while the polymer note releases 9kg.

So we should bring back the paper note? Well, it’s actually not that simple. While it cost us £236 million to put the polymer note in place, it cost us £10 million every year to replace soiled and frauded paper notes.

Polymer notes do last longer, but they pollute the planet much more than paper notes. So, we’ve been forced to pick between two evils.

You may not even realise who the worst culprit is in the cash system. According to the Institute and Faculties of Actuaries, the biggest hazard to the environment from the payments system are ATMs.

These machines silently use up tonnes of generated electricity to churn out cash at any given moment. In just obtaining cash, the system is unhealthy for the planet. Luckily we live in a time when the world is rapidly turning ‘cashless’.

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What about card?

Unfortunately, switching to card does not instantly save the planet. Payment cards are made from the synthetic plastic PVC, which doesn’t biodegrade and produces a lot of greenhouse gas. It is also very bad for the health of humans. Over six billion payment cards are manufactured each year worldwide.

Using card payments makes very little sense for the green-thinking business. Aside from the plastic card, card payments generate a lot more harmful waste than you realise.

Physical card payments don’t work without a card reader machine. These machines range massively in price, but ultimately most of them are beyond the reach of a small business owner.

The worst part of the card payments process is the receipts. According to Mobile Transaction, most paper receipts contain the incredibly toxic chemicals BPA & BPS. These chemicals can cause horrible side effects such as hormone imbalances, infertility, birth defects, prostate cancer, type two diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and impaired blood function.

11.2 billion receipts are printed annually in the UK, and 90% of receipts are trashed immediately after being accepted. That is a lot of toxic chemicals being needlessly spread into the environment!

Read more: Podcast: A conversation about contactless payments and QR codes

What the future looks like

You may be thinking, if I can’t pay with card how am I meant to pay? Thanks to developments within the fintech industry, cashless options are becoming more and more popular.

Pomelo Pay is one of these companies. We allow businesses to conduct cashless payments in an affordable, easy, and sustainable way. Our payment app runs on QR codes. All you need is a smartphone and a payment machine on-the-go.

QR codes are an excellent alternative to other payment options. They are paper-free, so they don’t contain harmful and polluting toxic chemicals, like receipts do. They also have a lower carbon footprint because they create an alternate use to an already widespread technology (i.e. your smartphone).

QR codes have been called, “the most environmentally neutral means of payment” by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. Considering the UK's goal to be entirely carbon neutral by 2050, the use of QR code payment systems will continue to increase.

In the long run, the changing climate is an extremely consequential topic that will rise in importance as time goes on. Proving that your small business is considering green methods of payment will improve the image of your brand in the eyes of new and returning customers.

Want to get started with cashless payments? Learn more about how we're helping businesses go cashless.

why going cashless is better for the environment infographic