Sustainability and its Impact on ATMs - July 13, 2023
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Sustainability and its Impact on ATMs

Thursday, July 13, 2023

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by Sofia Sadiq

Cash plays a crucial role in the economy as it continuously circulates until it is physically destroyed, whether through regulation, wear and tear, accidental damage, or loss. In order to enhance its durability, minters constantly work on improving the materials used.

Sustainability has a notable impact on ATMs and as the financial industry seeks to reduce its environmental footprint and transition to more sustainable practices, ATMs are being reevaluated in terms of their energy consumption, efficiency, and overall environmental impact.

The rise of data-oriented services, such as payment and social media platforms, has resulted in increased demand on ICT infrastructure, particularly data centers, which are known for their significant environmental impact.

QR code payments have the potential to disrupt the payments ecosystem due to their sustainability benefits. Moreover, the widespread use of mobile payments can facilitate circular economy practices, enabling virtuous cycles such as increased participation in recycling schemes and sharing platforms, ultimately reducing wasted capacity.

Overall, transitioning from paper to polymer notes, adopting sustainable payment technologies, and leveraging mobile payments for circular economy initiatives can contribute to reducing the environmental cost associated with physical cash and promoting a more sustainable payments ecosystem.

One aspect of sustainability in relation to ATMs is energy usage. Traditional ATMs consume significant amounts of electricity, contributing to carbon emissions and energy waste. To address this issue, efforts are being made to develop and deploy more energy-efficient ATM models. These newer ATMs incorporate advanced technologies that optimize power consumption, reducing their environmental impact.

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) a professional body in the UK that is chartered with the responsibility of educating, developing, and regulating actuaries both domestically and internationally established a working party comprised of volunteers, sponsored by the Finance & Investment board at the IFoA. They released an interim report titled "Cashless Society - Benefits, Risks, and Issues," which examined the potential implications of a cashless society and its associated digital economy.

This study identified the energy consumption of ATMs as a significant contributor to various environmental indicators. The study utilized default electricity consumption data based on typical through-the-wall and lobby-style ATMs, considering reasonable usage scenarios regarding the number of notes dispensed in a single transaction and the number of transactions per day. However, it should be noted that ATMs come in different styles with varying energy consumption and cash-carrying capacities. Additionally, ATMs in different locations experience distinct usage patterns.

Transitioning towards a cashless economy can have several benefits, such as conserving non-renewable resources and supporting sharing platforms and recycling schemes that contribute to a broader circular economy. While debit cards offer potential for efficiency and greener transactions, the production and usage of smartphones have significant environmental costs, including their impact on data centers that consume substantial amounts of electricity. Additionally, cryptocurrencies place unsustainable demands on power grids, even though their decentralized ledger systems are not widely adopted yet.

Nevertheless, there are opportunities to improve the environmental footprint of non-cash payments. QR codes, for example, can facilitate digital inclusion for businesses and prompt re-evaluations of payment infrastructure during financial and sustainability reviews.

The sustainability of ATMs involves considering the materials used in their construction and the disposal of old machines. Manufacturers are increasingly adopting eco-friendly materials and designing ATMs with recyclability in mind. This approach helps minimize the environmental impact associated with the production and disposal of ATMs.

Moreover, the concept of sustainability extends beyond the physical aspects of ATMs. The shift towards a cashless society, where digital transactions replace physical currency, is affecting the role and usage of ATMs. As cash usage decreases, the need for cash-dispensing ATMs diminishes. To ensure the sustainability and relevance of ATMs in this changing landscape, exploring new functionalities and services for ATMs is crucial. For example, ATMs can be equipped to offer additional services such as bill payments, cardless transactions, or integration with mobile wallets. By diversifying their functions, ATMs can remain valuable assets in the evolving financial ecosystem.

In summary, sustainability considerations for ATMs encompass energy efficiency, eco-friendly materials, and adapting their functionalities to align with changing payment trends. By prioritizing sustainability in the design, usage, and disposal of ATMs, the financial industry can contribute to a more environmentally conscious and responsible approach to banking services.


Additional Resources from ATM Industry Association

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