This article was first published on Insights – Ripple
As this year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, it’s a perfect time to take stock of just how sustainable everyday practices and items in our lives truly are. While not as dire as melting polar ice caps or fracking, the production and use of currency does carry with it some surprising environmental ramifications.
From paper to plastic to crypto, let’s take a brief look at the sustainability of currency and its impact on our planet.
How Sustainable Is Paper Money?
The old adage is that money doesn’t grow on trees, but paper banknotes are most certainly a byproduct of them.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, mills across the world produce 400 million tons of paper each year. Some of this paper is used in the printing of banknotes, which contributes to global deforestation. It’s estimated that deforestation is responsible for about 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
The printing of paper money carries a rather sizable environmental impact, but it doesn’t stop at the printing press. Greenbacks aren’t particularly durable, weathering damage easily which mandates them being taken out of circulation. In fact, it’s estimated that the average lifespan of a $5 bill is only 16 months.
Many countries have transitioned to producing their banknotes with a combination of recycled, low-quality waste fibers, cotton, linen and paper. This reduces the harvesting of raw materials required to make paper money. And paper itself is an easily recyclable substance.
You also need to factor in that using paper money results in another environmentally problematic byproduct: coins. The extraction, mining, milling and smelting of metal to produce coins is incredibly energy-intensive, and the U.S. Mint estimates that some 40,000+ tons of metal are used to make coins in the country, each year.
Whether paper or metal, it’s ...
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