Green Finance, Member Exclusive

It’s digital, but is it green? The effects of payments on the environment, in 4 charts

  • Payments won't be green until we tackle the emissions inherent to the smartphone industry
  • In 2021 the e-waste generated globally weighed as much as the Great Wall of China.
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It’s digital, but is it green? The effects of payments on the environment, in 4 charts

Within the lifecycle of a penny or dollar, waste is produced at multiple junctions. Moreover, end-user equipment like ATMs adds to the overall energy consumption. Incinerated waste and electricity produced from non-renewable resources contribute to climate change. However, over the last decade, card-based payments have taken center stage, and while one may have expected that our old woes of adding to global waste and emissions would have disappeared, they haven’t. These “digitally advanced” methods are only making the planet hotter.

Unfortunately, in-depth research into the effects of digital payments on the environment is scarce. Current analysis relies on a study done in the Netherlands on the environmental impact of debit card transactions. By analyzing the life cycle of a debit card and observing the surrounding ecosystem, the study found that most consumer-facing equipment, such as the card and terminal, contributed to 90% of the environmental impact. 

Within the lifecycle of a penny or dollar, waste is produced at multiple junctions. Moreover, end-user equipment like ATMs adds to the overall energy consumption. Incinerated waste and electricity produced from non-renewable resources contribute to climate change. However, over the last decade, card-based payments have taken center stage, and while one may have expected that our old woes of adding to global waste and emissions would have disappeared, they haven’t. These “digitally advanced” methods are only making the planet hotter.

Unfortunately, in-depth research into the effects of digital payments on the environment is scarce. Current analysis relies on a study done in the Netherlands on the environmental impact of debit card transactions. By analyzing the life cycle of a debit card and observing the surrounding ecosystem, the study found that most consumer-facing equipment, such as the card and terminal, contributed to 90% of the environmental impact. 

 


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