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Penny - Waste of Zinc

Kill the penny, save the earth

By Hank Green Posted Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:51pm PDT EcoGeek

There are a lot of reasons to end the reign of the penny. On top of the list is the fact that they are worth more melted down than at the grocery store. If you got a hundred pennies and melted them down, you'd actually have $1.40 of metal, mostly zinc. That's just not sound economic policy.

Second, it's a waste of zinc, the mining of which is an environmental disaster.

The demand for zinc, mostly due to growth in China, has skyrocketed, and wasting the metal on a coin that is, in general, a nuisance, is foolish economic and environmental policy.

Unfortunately, there's no quick fix. Switching to the nickel as our cheapest unit is confusing, especially in places with uneven sales tax. Transactions would, according on a bill proposed by Representative Jim Kolbe (R - AR), be rounded to the nearest five cents. But people aren't a big fan of paying more for a certain amount of stuff... even if it's just cents.

The change would only affect monetary transactions. Credit card and interest payments would still be made to the penny. Australia underwent a similar change in 2002, eliminating both its one- and two-cent pieces, without much of a stir.

With the rising cost of zinc, and the slumping power of the dollar, the pennies' days are numbered. Already, they're difficult to keep in circulation because people don't like to carry them around, and they simply pile up in jars and car seats waiting for their CoinStar fate.

Maybe Lincoln can find a new home, on a dollar or two-dollar coin. I'd hate to lose him all together.

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