Most of the U.S. coins are composed primarily of copper, which is fairly inert to the environment. Through 2008, the cent (or “penny”) coin was primarily composed of copper as well, with only 5% tin/zinc.
Since 2009, the cent has been made of 97.5% zinc with 2.5% copper plating. Zinc is not significantly worse than copper. The dollar coins tend to have the largest mix of metals, and thus are likely the most harmful of the regular circulation coins.
The most environmentally harmful are likely the silver proof coins produced by the mints. Silver can be highly toxic when introduced into groundwater.
That would depend on their circulation throughout the U.S. Most of the U.S. coins are composed of nickel and copper (with the exception of the penny- zinc and copper and the presidential dollar has all three of those metals including manganese). When there are not enough coins in circulation, more have to be produced which means mining for metals. The by-product of mining is the waste created during the process, which degrades and puts a strain on the environment.
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