Not many people think about the economic impact of plastic gift cards, after all they are relatively small compared to the wrapping paper and boxes of a large present. In reality 10 billion plastic gift cards are produced every year, most of them end up hitting the land fills. Despite their small size, gift cards ecological footprint can be huge. Gift cards contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) an extremely toxic compound that is a known carcinogen. Other toxins in gift cards include chlorine residue and heavy metal pollutants. Those 10 billion gift cards produced each year contribute 75 to 100 million pounds of toxic plastic that will site in landfills leaking toxins for the duration of their long lifespan.
Thankfully recycling programs and new materials are being put in place to combat the negative environmental impact of gift cards. Earthworks, a green manufacturing company has been collecting consumer’s gift cards and credit cards to make 100% recycled. The earth works system not only reduces cards environmental impact it creates a product with real value making Earthworks a truly sustainable business.
Creating gift cards out of bioplastics may be another way to reduce or even eliminate the environmental impact of gift cards. Bioplastic gift cards are made from renewable sources such as cornstarch and vegetable oil rather than petroleum based plastics. Mirel a corn based biodegradable plastic created by Metabolix has been adopted by a few large retailers. In 2007 Target sold Mirel gift cards in 129 of its stores. Commercial retailers are rapidly adopting greener business practices as their customers demand it. Recycling, bioplastics or digital distribution all contribute to reducing the amount of harmful chemicals. Any thing that creates more sustainable business practices and a cleaner environment is a step in the right direction.