Pur­po­se: Con­su­mers in the Nether­lands made more than 3.2 bil­li­on debit card tran­sac­tions at points- of-sale in 2015, cor­re­spon­ding to over half of all point-of-sale pay­ments in that year. This stu­dy pro­vi­des insights into the envi­ron­men­tal impact of debit card tran­sac­tions based on a life cycle assess­ment (LCA). In addi­ti­on, it iden­ti­fies several are­as wit­hin the debit card pay­ment chain whe­re the envi­ron­men­tal impact can be reduced.

Methods: The debit card pay­ment sys­tem can be divi­ded into three sub­sys­tems: debit cards, pay­ment ter­mi­nals, and dat­a­cen­tres used for tran­sac­tion pro­ces­sing. Input data for all ele­ments wit­hin each sub­sys­tem (manu­fac­tu­ring, trans­port, ener­gy use, and dis­po­sal) were retrie­ved from inter­views and lite­ra­tu­re stu­dy. Seven key com­pa­nies and aut­ho­ri­ties wit­hin the debit card sys­tem such as the Dut­ch Pay­ments Asso­cia­ti­on, two banks, two dat­a­cen­tres, one pay­ment ter­mi­nal pro­du­cer and a recy­cling com­pa­ny con­tri­bu­t­ed data. The ana­ly­sis is con­duc­ted using Sima­Pro, the Eco­in­vent 3.0 data­ba­se and the ReCi­Pe end­point (H) impact assess­ment method.

Results and dis­cus­sion: One Dut­ch debit card tran­sac­tion in 2015 is esti­ma­ted to have an abso­lu­te envi­ron­men­tal impact of 470 μPt. Wit­hin the pro­cess chain of a debit card tran­sac­tion, the rela­ti­ve envi­ron­men­tal impact of pay­ment ter­mi­nals is domi­nant, con­tri­bu­ting 75% of the total impact. Ter­mi­nal mate­ri­als (37%) and ter­mi­nal ener­gy use (27%) are the lar­gest con­tri­bu­tors to this share, while the remai­ning impact com­pri­ses dat­a­cent­re (11%) and debit card (15%) sub­sys­tems. For dat­a­cen­tres, this impact main­ly stems from their ener­gy use. Final­ly, sce­n­a­rio ana­ly­ses show that a signi­fi­cant decre­a­se (44%) in the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the ent­i­re debit card pay­ment sys­tem could be achie­ved by sti­mu­la­ting the use of rene­wa­ble ener­gy in pay­ment ter­mi­nals and dat­a­cen­tres, redu­cing the stand­by time of pay­ment ter­mi­nals, and by incre­a­sing the life­ti­mes of debit cards.

Con­clu­si­ons: For the first time, the envi­ron­men­tal con­se­quen­ces of elec­tro­nic card pay­ment sys­tems are eva­lua­ted. The total envi­ron­men­tal impact of debit card tran­sac­tions in the Nether­lands is rela­tively modest com­pa­red to the impact of cash pay­ments, which are the clo­sest sub­sti­tu­te of debit card pay­ments at the point-of-sale. Sce­n­a­rio ana­ly­sis indi­ca­tes that the envi­ron­men­tal impact can be redu­ced by 44%.

Quel­le /​ Link: Eva­lua­ting the envi­ron­men­tal impact of debit card payments

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