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Weekly Tips | January 07, 2014

Gift Card Discard

Chances are, no matter the denomination, that among your holiday packages, you likely received a gift card. While it’s a good way to ensure no gift returns from your Great Aunt Eunice or your brother-in-law George, what to do with returning the card itself?

Many retailers such as Walmart and REI use a corn-based gift card that is compostable. These cards are made by Nature Works. Whole Foods uses paper and virtual gift cards, which you may use your smart phone to redeem. The CleanScapes Store in Issaquah also uses paper gift cards which are easily recyclable after use. In most cases, this style of gift-giving reduces the packaging waste associated with wrapping and mailing an item. Great news! Well, almost. Chances are you're still stuck with a pile of plastic cards. What to do with them once their value has been used?


Many gift cards, such as those from Nordstrom, Starbucks, or Macy’s, are reloadable. Consider saving them for future use if you will be getting a gift card at the same store for someone else as a gift. Ask the stores you frequent if they also provide the same service.


Gather friends and family together get crafty using your spent cards to create mosaic coasters, jewelry, guitar picks, or many other creative ideas.


Most plastic cards found in wallets (drivers license, credit, debit, or gift cards) are made of PVC or polyvinyl chloride, and are not recyclable via your curbside cart. Earthworks created a mail-in recycling program for gift cards. Individuals can fill out a form to receive instructions on how to recycle used gift cards from home. Companies can contact Earthworks to get set up recycling cards that are left at the store after purchase. 

Resources: Earth 911 | treehugger | scavenging | Instructables | Totally Green CraftsEarthworks | Recycling Instructions | Whole Foods | Mother Nature Network

The Big Picture

According to the EPA vinyl chloride gas is used to make PVC1, which is common in almost all plastic cards. Vinyl chloride has been listed as a known carcinogen. Because of this, some government agencies and businesses are working to restrict or phase out PVC. In the meantime, PVC free options are available for many products2.

Sources: (1) EPA | (2) Green Peace

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