In 2003, the ECB studied the environmental impact of euro banknotes. The research concluded that the environmental impact of euro banknotes during their complete life cycle was the same as each inhabitant of the European Union driving a car one kilometre or leaving a 60-watt light bulb switched on for half a day. The life cycle of the banknotes includes production, storage, circulation and end-of-life treatment.
The ECB has introduced a Eurosystem environmental management system, in cooperation with the banknote production industry. Its goal is to continue to protect the environment in the best possible way.
Euro banknotes are safe. Independent tests have confirmed that all chemical substances present in euro banknotes are far below any limits set by European Union regulations.
Before their launch in January 2002, euro banknotes were tested to ensure they did not pose any risk of toxicity if ingested or touched, and that they could not cause damage to genetic material.
As clean as credit cards
Low levels of common bacteria have typically been found on banknotes coming from sources such as food outlets. The presence of bacteria is so small that they cannot cause even minor symptoms. Plastic credit cards generally have the same levels of bacteria as banknotes.
Occasionally, the Eurosystem has been contacted with concerns about a variety of substances. In all cases, either the concentration was so tiny that it posed no health risk or the substance in question was not found at all.