Apple Pay will likely revolutionize the security and convenience of paying for goods at retail, but it doesn't yet do much to reduce the incredible amount of waste created by the retail payment process. We are hopeful that the current version of Apple Pay will one day evolve into a green payment system. Here is what needs to happen.
Ditch the Plastic
The current version of Apple pay has a very cool feature that enables you to easily enter and store your credit card information into their Passbook app by simply pointing your camera at the credit card. The camera automatically recognizes the numbers, which is very cool. Unfortunately, there is a big problem with this process…it still requires a plastic credit card to be issued.
According to International Card Manufacturers Association, 30 billion cards were manufactured worldwide in 2011. The problem is that these cards are typically made of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), which Greenpeace has labeled as “The Poison Plastic” stating,
"PVC is the most environmentally damaging plastic. The PVC lifecycle -- its production, use, and disposal -- results in the release of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals. These toxins are building up in the water, air and food chain."
The environmental impact of credit cards is worsted when 30 billion cards are mailed to the users consuming paper and gas, both of which consume natural resources and result in harmful emissions and waste.
In order for Apple Pay to become a green payment system, Apple must work with credit card issuers to give consumers the option to waive the issuance of a physical card, and instead have the card added to Passbook electronically. While I am sure there are security concerns to be worked out, both parties stand to gain from doing this. Card issuers will save billions of dollars in card issuance costs, and Apple will benefit as more retailers could be pressured to accept Apple Pay if physical cards are eliminated.
Skip the Paper
We have already documented the incredible amount of wasted paper and potential toxicity of paper receipts, but it is worth repeating that 9.6 million trees could be saved if we eliminated paper receipts.
However, since it seems Apple has designed Apple Pay with security and privacy in mind, it may be difficult for it to use the system to reduce or eliminate paper receipts. Apple touts the fact that it does not keep any record of the details of the transaction. In other words. it stores only the metadata much as the date, time, amount, retailer, etc., but not what you purchased.
While, this position is comforting in an age of ever eroding privacy, it seems that there must be someway Apple can facilitate the anonymous transfer of the receipt information from the retailer to the consumer without Apple gaining access to the receipt details or the retailer gaining access to the consumer’s identity.
It seems likely that Apple will gain widespread adoption of Apple Pay. Let’s hope they use that position of power to positively impact the wasteful retail payment ecosystem, just the same way they have with electronics manufacturing, worker’s rights, retail packaging, etc.