The ecological impacts of cash stem from the production, distribution and use of banknotes and the destruction of unfit banknotes. For each of these, the ecological impacts differ in the material, energy and destruction processes.

The decline in the use of cash has been reflected in the sorting and destruction of banknotes by the Bank of Finland (Chart 28).

In the Eurosystem, only central banks may destroy euro banknotes that have become unfit during circulation and replace them with new notes.

The renewal of the entire euro banknote series and the introduction of the second series starting from the end of 2013 has been gradually reflected in the destruction of the various banknote denominations (Chart 29). The changeover to the new series has progressed from the lowest to the highest denominations.

The EUR 50 was the most common note of the euro banknotes destroyed in 2019. In the second series of euro banknotes, the durability of the notes has been enhanced by the application of a protective layer of varnish. As a result, the lifespan of the euro banknotes of the smallest denominations has as much as doubled.

Cash transports and automated distribution cause some environmental impacts related to energy consumption. However, the impacts are very small when converted into CO2 emissions. The Bank of Finland delivers all waste from the destruction of unfit euro banknotes to be incinerated at high temperatures that eradicate the metal compounds in the notes.