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The environmental footprint of euro banknotes

The Eurosystem is committed to making euro banknotes as environmentally friendly as possible, while ensuring cash is widely available and accepted.

ECB Executive Board member Piero Cipollone

The Eurosystem cash strategy outlines our commitment to euro cash. Cash is a key part of our economy and we want to ensure that it remains available and accessible for everyone. We also need to make sure that banknotes are as environmentally friendly as possible.

What is the environmental footprint of paying with euro banknotes?

A person’s yearly use of euro banknotes as a payment instrument is equivalent to driving eight kilometres in a car. This is one of the key findings of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) study.

It is an assessment based on a methodology developed by the European Commission and it builds on a Life Cycle Assessment study conducted in 2004 to measure the environmental impact of the first series of euro banknotes. The outcome of this first study resulted in actions to reduce environmental impact, such as a shift towards using 100% sustainable cotton in production and a ban on disposing banknote waste in landfill.

The study considers the entire life cycle of euro banknotes from raw material acquisition and manufacturing to distribution and disposal. Results indicate where we’ve made good progress and help us find more ways to reduce the environmental footprint of our banknotes.

Key findings from our environmental impact assessment

Environmental impact is very low

The footprint of a person’s yearly euro banknote payments is equivalent to driving eight kilometres in a car, or only 0.01% of their total environmental impact.

More on the overall results

We’ve already made good progress

Using more sustainable cotton and banning landfill disposal of banknote waste have already had a positive effect.

More on what we’ve done

Main areas of environmental impact

Given that banknotes are in circulation for many years, distribution is one of the main contributors to their environmental footprint.

More on the causes

The Product Environmental Footprint study

Looking ahead

We continuously work to make banknotes more environmentally friendly and we’re looking into ways to improve material and components used in the manufacturing of banknotes.

Automated teller machine (ATM) manufacturers and banks have also taken steps to reduce the environmental footprint of ATMs and the cash cycle infrastructure. Ways to reduce the environmental footprint of banknote transportation by using more sustainable fuels and energy sources are also being considered.

Extensive research and development are underway, which aim to identify alternative waste disposal methods for banknotes, such as recycling and reusing waste material.

The findings of the PEF study will be taken into account in the development of future euro banknotes.

Find out more

More details

Have a look at the frequently asked questions on the Product Environmental Footprint study for more information.


For the media

The related press release highlights key parts of the Product Environmental Footprint study.

Press release

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