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I always get an e-ticket on my mobile, to save the environment and so on.

But then I thought well, am I really saving trees? I have to give my phone a full charge in order that it doesn't run out just when the conductor asks for my ticket. Which means that it needs electricity and a powerstation is burning some fosil fuels somewhere no doubt.

So that got me wondering, which would be better for the environment, if everyone got e-tickets on their phones. Or everyone got a paper ticket.

We shall assume:

  • We don't count manufacture of phone. (We assume we will have one anyway).
  • When phone is not used for buying tickets it is not charged up.
  • One ticket per day.
  • Paper ticket is on A4 paper with ink.
  • E-ticket needs a full battery charge for the day.

My intuition is that an e-ticket is worse because to get the energy needed to power a phone a would think it wold require burning many hundreds of paper tickets. Is this intutition correct?

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According to this study by the IATA, it costs \$1 to process an e-ticket, versus \$10 to process paper ticket. I assume this is only from the airline's point of view. You could argue that this is not the "environmental cost" you care about, but I just wanted to point it out.

I'm a bit confused by your phone charging assumptions, but according to this post, it costs close to 1 cent to charge a phone (10,000 mAh, at least). Also, you won't need your phone at full charge to use e-ticket.

On top of that, paper tickets also have a lot of costs associated with it, from the manufacturing process, logistics of getting the paper to your local store, getting it from the store to your home. Then we need to talk about recycling costs, etc.

So without the cost of the phone taken into account, I still think it's more efficient to use e-ticket.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking if I had a home-made generator and which ran off burning paper tickets. I can't see how much energy I would get out of one little ticket. It would go out very quickly! Unlike burning some coal or a piece of wood! $\endgroup$
    – zooby
    Dec 7 '19 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand the \$10 to process a paper ticket? A piece of paper doesn't cost \$10. If I got a ticket for a concert that cost \$10, it wouldn't cost an extra \$10 for a paper ticket that would be madness! A piece of paper would cost 1 cent, and a phone charge would cost 1 cent. Which makes both cost 1 cent each. $\endgroup$
    – zooby
    Dec 7 '19 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I understand your comment about generating power by burning tickets. Regarding \$10, I imagine it costs airlines quite a lot for this ticket-printing machines at check in kiosks, needing then at every kiosks at every airports around the world. $\endgroup$
    – Art
    Dec 7 '19 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ famously airlines overcharge for everything. If I'm printing out a paper ticket to go see a play or gig that costs \$5 I fail to see how my printed ticket has cost anyone \$10. So if I print out my 100 page novel on my printer, that would cost \$1000? I don't think so. Maybe \$5 for the paper and \$5 for the ink. Either way they'll be a man at the door checking people's tickets, paper or otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – zooby
    Dec 7 '19 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ @zooby Did you read Art's comment? The $10 probably includes the cost of the ticket machines for example. $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Dec 9 '19 at 11:21

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