This has emerged from a DNB study into the environmental impact of debit card and cash payments. The Dutch point-of-sale (POS) payment system has a relatively modest ecological footprint. Taken together, debit card and cash payments account for 0.015% of the carbon emissions in the Dutch economy. Even so, the environmental impact can be brought down.
Comparing the environmental impact of cash and debit card payments
Cash has a larger impact on the environment and climate change than debit card payments (see Table 1). In 2015, the ecological footprint of a cash payment was 36% higher than that of a debit card payment, while its impact on climate change, as evidenced by average carbon emissions per payment, was 21% higher. The difference between the two payment chains is slightly more pronounced, due to the larger number of cash payments. In 2015, Dutch consumers made 3.2 billion debit card payments and 3.2 billion cash payments to pay for their purchases, as well as 0.5 billion cash payments to relatives, friends and charities. The trend in which consumers make increasingly more debit card payments than cash payments would seem to have a beneficial environmental and climate impact, although the study's uncertainty margins must be taken into account. Moreover, subsequent shifts in payment behaviour and infrastructure changes, such as the declining number of ATMs, may result in a different environmental impact.
Table 1 - Impact of cash and debit card payments in the Netherlands in 2015