Why Going Cashless is Better for the Environment

September 8, 2020

Have you ever considered the environmental impact of using cash? We bet you haven’t, but at Pomelo Pay, we can’t stop thinking about it! No matter how much of an Extinction Rebellion campaigner we are in our personal lives, most people do not realise the impact being cash-dependent has on their small business.

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. Fancy doing the maths?

So, notes must be better for the environment, right? Well, yes, but you might be interested, or rather, disappointed to know, that 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, correct? 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 the worst evil of the cash system. According to the Institute and Faculties of Actuaries, the greatest hazard from the payments system to the environment are ATMs. Surprised, right? Well, these machines silently use up tonnes of generated electricity to prepare to churn out cash at any given moment. So even in obtaining cash, the system is unhealthy for the planet. But 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 massively bad for the health of humans. Over 6 billion payment cards are manufactured each year worldwide. That’s only in one year, how mind-boggling is that?

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. You wouldn’t think it, would you? It’s just paper, I’m sure you’re thinking. Well, no. According to Mobile Transaction, most 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 2 Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and impaired blood function. Not good! 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 on earth am I meant to pay? Well, remember earlier when I mentioned how cashless the world was getting? 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 (which you most likely already have) and you have 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 as 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 has a goal of being entirely carbon neutral by 2050, the QR code payment system will start to be used much more regularly.

In the long run, the changing climate is a massively important topic that will only continue to get more controversial as time goes on. Proving that your small business is considering green methods of payment will improve your businesses association amongst loyal and new 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