Even cash pollutes: in Italy 2.7 kg of CO2 per inhabitant due to cash payments. Here because


By John

Cash pollution weighs on Italy: with 2.7 kg of CO2 per capita generated by cash payments, our country ranks second in Europe, after Germany, for the environmental impact of this payment method. This was revealed by Il Sole24Ore.

A problem with environmental and economic repercussions: The European House – Ambrosetti study highlights how cashless payment has a carbon footprint 21% lower than cash. Not only that: 80% of Italian merchants declare that they have recorded an increase in sales with the introduction of digital payments.

Italy at two speeds: While on the one hand 8 out of 10 merchants accept digital payments, on the other hand a North-South divide emerges: dependence on cash and resistance to change are more marked in the Southern regions.

Digital culture and training: 60% of Italian merchants do not value their customers' data and 26% do not use the web for their business. Added to this is the lack of digital skills: almost 50% of those interviewed do not consider them necessary.

New frontiers: The use of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is growing, with 40% of online users using this payment method in 2023. 60% of these users say they would not have finalized the purchase without BNPL.

A change of pace is needed: To accelerate the transition to a cashless society, a joint commitment of institutions, companies and citizens is needed. Incentives, training and awareness campaigns can help bridge the digital divide and overcome cultural resistance.

Why does cash pollute more?

Pollution associated with cash arises from different stages of its life cycle:


  • Raw material extraction: Coins are generally composed of copper, nickel and steel, the extraction of which requires significant consumption of energy and natural resources, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage.
  • Banknote production: The paper used for banknotes is made from cellulose, which requires felling trees and an energy-intensive production process.


  • Distribution: The transport of cash, both in coins and banknotes, takes place via armored vehicles that consume fuel and produce CO2 emissions.
  • Management at ATMs: The operation of ATMs requires electricity, with a non-negligible environmental impact.


  • Worn banknotes: Deteriorated banknotes are collected and destroyed, resulting in further consumption of resources and environmental impact.

Comparison with digital payments:

Digital payments, such as credit and debit cards, e-wallets and online transfers, have a smaller carbon footprint than cash. This because:

  • They do not require the production and transportation of physical money.
  • They use existing electronic systems.
  • Transactions are often dematerialized, requiring no receipts or paper receipts.

However, even digital payments are not completely free of environmental impact:

  • Production and use of electronic devices: The production of cards, smartphones and other devices necessary for digital payments requires the use of resources and generates emissions.
  • Data centers: Digital transaction processing occurs in data centers that consume large amounts of energy.