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« Blowing our trumpet | Main | Cashlessness experiment (not what you think) »

A few coppers

By Dave Birch posted May 2 2008 at 11:55 AM

[Dave Birch] There's no doubt that "green" is a business pressure now. There are plenty of ways in which payments could use new technology more effectively to deliver more environmentally-friendly products: there's plenty of low-hanging fruit around the elimination of paper that's a "win win", as they say.

The good news about the elimination of paper in our paper intensive industry is that any move to reduce the amount of paper in a customer’s relationship improves the profitability of that account for the bank.

[From Banking on Customers: Green is good…as far as it goes]

I'm all favour of this kind of thinking, but I also always really appreciate a spurious green veneer on a press release: it shows deference to zeitgeist as well a spin skills on show. Very modern. A particularly impressive case in point is in Business Week. In a story called "How to turn pennies green", which I imagine is based on a press release from Coinstar (a company I have always liked, and still do, not that it matters), we are reminded that mining copper uses lots of power and water. What do you make out of copper? Well, coins for one thing. So, Coinstar estimate that there are 150 billion "unused" coins around in the U.S. at present, and they add up to about $90 per household. They reckon that if people were to take just 10% of these coins down to their local supermarket and chuck them in the Coinstar machine then they would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for Coinstar but also, more importantly, stop the U.S. Mint from wasting loads of money (the Mint loses money on every coin it makes, remember: nickels now cost 7.7. cents each) and reduce the demand for copper thus saving the energy used by 4m light bulbs. No sure if the logic stands up to really detailed scrutiny, but it's a fun story anyway.

Another way to help the environment even more might be to abolish pennies and nickels altogether. Give people five years to turn them in if they want to, then rescind the law against melting them down. Hey presto, all of the 150 billions unused coins will either be dumped in Coinstar machines or melted down to make more useful items. Incidentally, did anyone else reading up on this topic know that it's illegal to take more $5-worth of pennies and nickels outside the U.S.?

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


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I'd like to look into this some more Ian, can you point to some sources?

Crazy! So we have to melt it down using American labour, rather than cheap offshore labour?

For a perverse connection, there is now sufficient numbers to map the estimate of money back into the US as the shift in the reserve currency status continues. Depending on which numbers you believe, it's happening at around 1% of total USD issue per year since around 2000, which leads to a 3% addition to inflation which can't be controlled.

Yes, that is a felony to take the change across the border out of the US as you mention above....amazing.

Coinstar is fantastic. There are more and more of the machines with the option of loading balances on debit cards with a quick swipe. That is a great company.

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