Environmentally friendly coins

The UK’s Royal Mint is to introduce new copper and nickel alloy-free coins in a move to save on cash and carbon.

The country’s new-look five and 10p coins are to be made from steel with a nickel plating in a move designed to save the Treasury around £8 million a year.

But the cost-saving measure has also inadvertently helped the environment by using a less resource scarce metal mix.

Steel, as well as being a fraction of the cost of copper and nickel, is created from iron ore, which is more abundant and far easier to mine. Iron is also found closer to steel mills – reducing the financial and carbon cost of its production.

The coins are to be introduced into circulation this Easter.

At the moment the cost of a ten pence coin is 4.5p and each one is minted from a cupronickel alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel.

The traditional coins are becoming increasingly expensive to produce, with a current market value of £4,875 per tonne of copper and £15,000 per tonne of nickel. The UK’s new coins will be made from 95% steel, which costs around £500 per tonne.

Other countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Russia have already made the switch from non-ferrous metals to nickel-plated steel varieties for low denomination coins.

As well as the environmental benefit of the switch, it is estimated the conversion will save the UK Government approximately £123 million over 25 years, the average lifespan of a coin.

In 1992, the UK Government switched the composition of its one and two-pence coins from solid copper to copper-plated steel with very few members of the public noticing.

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