Cash and sustainability
Contributing to a more sustainable environment is also a priority of the Banco de Portugal when managing the life cycle of banknotes.
Several measures have already been taken to promote the prudent use of natural resources and protect human health in the production, supply and circulation of euro banknotes.
The companies involved in the production of euro banknotes are certified by the ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 international standards and therefore have environmental management systems and occupational health and safety management systems in place to assess and control the impact of their activities on the environment and the wellbeing of the workers involved in the production process.
In turn, banknotes are made using sustainable cotton, i.e. organic or fair trade cotton from integrated production. Euro banknotes are manufactured using short fibres from spinning cotton for yarn or for use in the textile industry that would otherwise go to waste. The minimum requirement currently stands at 50% of sustainable cotton fibres, rising to 75% for banknote production needs in 2022. The objective is that, by 2023, 100% of the cotton in euro banknote paper production will come from sustainable sources, limited only by the availability of this raw material. The paper used in the production of euro banknotes allocated to the Banco de Portugal in 2021 is made of 91% of sustainable cotton fibres.
The €5 and €10 banknotes – and, as of 2021, the €20 banknotes – of the Europa series include a thin layer of varnish to increase their resistance to damage from circulation. This helps increase the banknotes’ life cycle and has a significant financial and environmental impact, namely by reducing the consumption of raw materials.
Euro banknotes no longer fit for circulation are shredded and the waste is compacted into pellets. As this material is highly combustible, an environmentally accepted solution for its disposal is incineration for electricity generation. Since 2021, all fragments from the Banco de Portugal’s four sorting centres have been incinerated. By the end of 2020, only waste from the Regional Delegation in the Azores, corresponding to 2% of the total waste generated by the Bank from the destruction of banknotes, was disposed of in landfill.
In turn, when packaging its banknotes, the Banco de Portugal uses materials that, due to their technical features, can be recycled and reused.