Gift cards are a popular way to give thanks and celebrate special occasions by giving the gift of choice. Retailer-specific, pre-paid “credit” cards are available from businesses large and small, from local cafés like Caffe Ladro to Amazon.com. In most cases, this style of gift-giving greatly reduces the packaging waste associated with purchasing and wrapping an item. Great news! Well, almost. The main challenge has been what to do with gift cards once their value has been used. In January 2008 one company launched a mail-in recycling program for plastic gift cards, as well as and other types of plastic cards. While plastic cards cannot be recycled in your curbside cart, you can recycle them by mailing them to Earthworks. What’s in your wallet? If you have leftover, used or expired plastic cards, help keep them out of the landfill by mailing them to: Earthworks c/o Halprin Ind. 25840 Miles Rd. Bedford, Oh 44146 Interested in helping to start local collection stations? Organizations like DoSomethingGood.org are helping communities and students organize local plastic card collection for recycling.
Plastic gift cards, retail membership cards and credit cards are made from PVC plastic, or polyvinyl chloride. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services has determined that vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen(1). According to the International Card Manufacturing Association, 17 billion plastic cards, including gift, library, video rental and membership cards were produced in 2006(2). As a result of continued popularity and increased demand for retail gift cards, between 75-100 million pounds of PVC material from plastic cards enters our waste stream each year(3). Recycling plastic cards provides an alternative source of materials for manufacturers. Creating new cards from existing PVC plastic helps eliminate increased air and water pollution caused from manufacturing plastic cards from raw materials.