A picture of a digital passport
#Identity Technology

How green is your ePassport?

Expert Opinion
6 Mins.

Tackling climate change is the undisputed challenge of our time. Businesses and organizations from all sectors have a responsibility to reduce their carbon emissions and contribute to environmental-protection efforts. In this context, the identity industry has a golden opportunity to set an example for the rest of the travel industry by improving the carbon footprint of the ePassport life cycle.

Recent estimates suggest that the travel and tourism industry accounts for around 8% of global emissions1; however, other industry estimates vary significantly. The reason for this is simple: while it may be easy to track the exact emissions of a flight from New York to London, capturing and quantifying the emissions related to other areas of the industry, such as accommodation and tourist-related activities, is not as straightforward. Moreover, the global nature of travel makes it difficult to develop and adopt standardized methodologies across the board. Tracking and measuring these indirect emissions is like trying to decode an ancient language without having so much as a dictionary. Without the right tools, it is impossible to reduce emissions effectively. This is one of the biggest challenges for all stakeholders in the travel industry when it comes to tackling climate change.

For that reason, it is even more important to focus on addressing the emissions that can be tracked and reduced. As ESG becomes an increasingly important pillar for companies and organizations, and younger generations of travelers become more eco-conscious, it’s critical for the whole industry to come together so that everyone can do their part to reduce carbon emissions. Every little bit helps, after all. In the identity industry, a good first step would be to reduce the carbon footprint of the passport life cycle.

The ePassport life cycle and its impact on the environment

An ePassport is a travel document that contains an electronic chip and enhanced security features designed to reduce the risk of identity fraud and speed up border controls. By using electronic gates at airports, ePassports eliminate the need for lengthy manual identification checks, allowing users to pass through immigration quickly and efficiently. This makes the travel experience more secure and efficient for both travelers and border security staff.

Leading identity solutions provider Veridos estimates that there are more than a billion ePassports in circulation, with 100 million new ePassports printed each year and a similar number ending up in landfills. To put this into perspective, if all the ePassports disposed of each year were placed side by side, they would stretch from Paris to Zurich. In terms of weight, this total would be equivalent to 637,500 pieces of carry-on luggage weighing 8 kg each2. This inevitably contributes to the identity industry’s carbon footprint.

Infographic: CO2 emission share of an ePassport

The largest source of carbon emissions in the ePassport life cycle is the sourcing and extraction of raw materials used to create the ePassports. While the pure polycarbonate material used for the data page is recyclable in theory, its production is environmentally costly and the composite material it is used in is difficult to dispose of in a sustainable manner. The next-biggest contributor is the transportation of the raw materials and the distribution of the ePassports once they have been produced. By contrast, processing and end-of-life emissions have a minimal impact.

The challenges of reducing the ePassport’s carbon footprint

One of the biggest strengths of ePassports – its high-level security features – is also one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to improving their recyclability. Unlike in the banking industry, which produces new bank cards from recycled plastics and recycles old ones, there are currently no secure solutions to recycle the identity page and electronic chip in an ePassport because of the highly sensitive personal data they contain.

This situation will change in the future. Intensive efforts are being made to explore the use of recycled polycarbonate or plant-based polycarbonate (such as corn-based or sugarcane-based) for high-security products such as ePassports. However, any potential solution that does emerge must adhere to international security standards. To realize this potential, international collaboration among industry stakeholders is essential.

Facts & Figures


ePassports in circulation worldwide


new ePassports issued, and disposed of, each year

0 0%

of ePassport emissions come from sourcing raw materials

What can the identity industry do now to reduce emissions?

Veridos is already exploring ways to reduce the environmental impact of its ePassport production, infrastructure, and supply chains. Potential measures being explored include sourcing greener materials for passports, using green energy sources, and adopting more-efficient waste management procedures. Efforts are also being made to reduce the use of air freight distribution in favor of more sustainable options, such as  sea freight, as well as avoiding partial shipments as much as possible.

“We are committed to radically changing the way we think about and work with ESG. Our primary goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of our products and operations while maintaining our high levels of customer service and satisfaction. We challenge ourselves to become better every day, therewith supporting our customers in achieving their goals.“
Marc-Julian Siewert
Chief Executive Officer, Veridos

Despite these efforts, it is clear that the biggest difference can be made by improving the recyclability of materials used to make passports, as well as ensuring greener modes of transport are used for distribution The industry must take appropriate action to achieve this in compliance with associated security challenges. All identity stakeholders and governments should come together and cooperate to develop a solution that meets international standards and makes a meaningful difference in reducing the carbon footprint of ePassports.

The time to act is now

Taking climate action is not just the morally right thing to do – it can also ensure future competitiveness. As consumers become more eco-conscious, especially the younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Z, the companies and organizations that take sustainability seriously are likely to set themselves apart from those that don’t. However, for these stakeholders, simply claiming that your business is sustainable or making ambitious carbon-neutral pledges for the mid-to-long-term future is no longer enough. Younger consumers actively seek out products and brands that demonstrate their commitment to sustainability with tangible measures.

The travel industry demonstrates this in a number of ways. Airlines offer their customers the opportunity to offset emissions on flights, while the rise of eco-hotels allows both the customer and hospitality industry to make their contribution to a greener planet.

Joyful mother holding hands of her daughter, walking through airport concourse and traveling by plane on a vacation.

The power of a green ePassport should not be underestimated – neither its real impact nor its symbolic one. It is more than just a travel document; it is a gateway to new experiences, a ticket to explore the world, and a symbol of freedom and mobility. It grants access to the world. And by making this access as environmentally friendly as possible, perhaps it may also become a symbol of positive change for the over one billion ePassport holders worldwide.

Key takeaways

  • The travel and tourism industry is responsible for a significant portion of global emissions. Quantifying emissions is difficult due to the complexity of the industry and the lack of standardized methodologies.
  • Veridos takes a holistic approach that looks at all aspects of the ePassport life cycle and is actively seeking ways to minimize the ecological impact of its ePassport production, infrastructure, and supply chains.
  • Veridos encourages the identity industry to engage in global cooperation to find more sustainable solutions for the ePassport and reduce its environmental impact.
  1. Baseline Report on Climate Action in Tourism, 2022, UNWTO

  2. How sustainable travel documents can help raise awareness for eco friendly travel, 2022, Veridos

Published: 16/06/2023

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