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Environment, health and safety

We care about the environment and want to ensure that your euro banknotes are safe to produce and use, pose no risk to health and are as environmentally friendly as possible.

To maintain high standards for health, safety and environmental conditions during the production of euro banknotes and their raw materials, manufacturers must meet precise requirements set out by the ECB.

We inspect them for compliance annually. These requirements are complemented by two management systems based on international standards, ISO14001 and ISO 45001.

Environmental Management System

The Environmental Management System ensures that euro banknotes are produced as sustainably as possible, including their raw materials.

Since the introduction of the euro, we monitor the environmental impact of the production of euro banknotes and their raw materials, and promote sustainability initiatives to further reduce their environmental impact. We also keep an eye on new environmental concerns that arise.

In 2004 we conducted a Life Cycle Assessment to measure the environmental impact of the first series of euro banknotes. The results were used to implement measures to reduce the environmental footprint of banknotes, such as using 100% sustainable cotton and banning the disposal of banknote waste in landfill.

ATM manufacturers have also worked to reduce their energy consumption, which has significantly improved over the last 15 years.

We conducted a new environmental impact assessment for the second series of banknotes, the Europa series, using the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology. This study shows that the environmental impact of a citizen paying with euro banknotes is very low overall compared with that of their other everyday activities.

Find out more about the study

Health and Safety Management System

We monitor banknotes to ensure they are safe to produce and use, and we conduct risk assessments for chemical and biological factors.

For instance, we make sure that any chemical substances in banknotes are far below levels of concern to human health and are aligned with EU regulations.

We also protect the people manufacturing euro banknotes, by requiring that the production of euro banknotes and their raw materials complies with the international standard (ISO 45001) for occupational health and safety management systems.

Banknotes, like most items handled by large numbers of people, can carry bacteria or viruses. Independent test results confirm that euro banknotes are safe to use and do not pose a risk greater than that of touching other common surfaces like a door handle.

At the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we assessed whether euro banknotes and coins could contribute to the transmission of COVID-19. The results showed that euro banknotes used for payments do not present a significant risk of infection. 

Read our research into the potential transmission of COVID-19 via banknotes

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