It’s More Environmentally Friendly to Pay with Plastic

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Now that I’m working more with cash directly, I’ve gotten to see firsthand how a lot of the process works of dealing with large sums of money. The other day when I was strapping twenty dollar bills, I realized that I was using a currency strap, handing it to the vault teller, she was ripping it off, counting it, and re-strapping it with a whole new strap. Now the audit policy states that when I strap money I have to stamp it so she knows it came from me, so it’s not like I can just not stamp it and give it to her. I’d get in trouble for that and I’m not all about getting fired right now.

I started brainstorming ways to cut back on our waste on the teller line and that led to the conclusion that paying with plastic (like a credit card, debit card, or check card) is more environmentally friendly than paying with cash.

Here’s how I came to that decision: (Sorry Dave Ramsey!)

  • Cash has to be made from paper, which is killing trees.
  • Cash comes from the federal reserve strapped with currency straps and packaged in cold sealed plastic bags.  It takes resources to make both of those, plus plastic is bad!
  • Cash has to be shipped via armored trucks.  Those use gas, plus emit many carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Coins come wrapped in plastic wrap from the federal reserve. (More bad plastic!)
  • Tellers have to strap, unstrap, and re-strap money, which produces more waste and more paper being consumed.
  • The old bills have to be destroyed when they are worn out which means more resources consumed to do so, plus then new bills need to be manufactured.

When you have a credit or debit card, there is normally just one card made for a few years, it’s mailed to your house, and you use it over and over.  Save the environment; use your debit card.

Do you agree plastic is more environmentally friendly when it comes to money?

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: TheTruthAbout…

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16 thoughts on “It’s More Environmentally Friendly to Pay with Plastic

  1. ami@40daystochange says:

    hehe, interesting insights, fun to consider. But -aren’t credit cards made with (petroleum-based) plastic? And they have to be processed, cut, shipped, strapped (or crated I suppose), coded, etc. At least some parts of that process are potentially harmful to the environment.

    Your post did make me think about one potential benefit – credit cards might have fewer germs than cash (b/c handled by fewer people) 🙂

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    Mrs Money Reply:

    ami- They are made with plastic. I definitely agree that parts of the process would be harmful to the environment. When I compared the two, I thought that plastic wins because it’s a one-time impact generally. 🙂

    I love that! Less germs on credit cards! Great point!

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  2. John DeFlumeri Jr says:

    It’s so much fun to charge everything, and it’s always nice to have leverage against the merchant on purchases we make.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    John- I am getting a new debit card with that Pay Wave and I’m so excited about it! All I have to do is tap and go. It’s the little things I get excited about! 😉

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  3. Chris says:

    Just to clarify, dollar bills are made from a cotton/linen blend, its not a wood product like paper.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Chris- Good to know! I should have known that. 😉

    I still think it’s more environmentally friendly to pay with plastic though. 🙂

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  4. Tim says:

    I just think plastic is more convenient. When I see cash in my wallet I am tempted to spend it. I am more disciplined with plastic, which is complete opposite to others im sure.
    Good article!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Tim- I agree! I am the same way too. Glad there are others like me. 🙂 Thanks for the nice comment!

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  5. the Cynical Customer says:

    I always pay CC.
    I pay cash only when I need to get change for the laundry.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    the Cynical Customer- I’m with ya on that one! (Minus the laundry part- my quarters are for car washes!)

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  6. Michelle says:

    What about all the credit card receipts that need to be signed? One copy to sign, one to throw in the bottom of your purse. Those actually are made of paper and kill trees although trees are a renewable resource.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Michelle- Good point! I know when I use my debit card with pin, I just get the one receipt. I guess it’s more environmentally friendly to pay with a debit card and pin?! 😉 Thanks so much for pointing that out!

    [Reply]

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