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Gift cards can save the environment

Why Plastic Gift Cards Can Help Save The Environment

Plastic gets a bad rap for its use of fossil fuels and for its presence in landfills. Eco-friendly manufacturing methods, including recycled materials and bioplastic technology are reducing the carbon footprint of plastic gift cards, and are helping to keep them out of landfills: good news for environmentally-conscious retailers and consumers.

Keeping Plastic Gift Cards Out of the Waste Stream

The wild popularity of plastic gift cards has meant big business for American retailers. It has also meant thousands of tons of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) have ended up in the waste stream. The good news is that technology, consumer awareness, and corporate responsibility is changing changing the way gift cards are manufactured and disposed of.

Business News Weekly reports that over 85 percent of Americans will give gift cards this year. Their popularity has steadily grown over the last decade. To illustrate their popularity, last year alone, nearly $1.7 billion went unspent as leftover balances on gift cards. They have solidified their place as a consumer tool in the modern economy, and learning to efficiently manufacture and recycle them is a major focus of many manufacturers.

Bioplastic and Recycling Solutions

How are manufacturers and recycling companies responding to the influx of plastic into the economy and the waste stream? Some manufacturers are turning to bioplastics as a solution. With the International Card Manufacturers Association reporting that upwards of 10 billion new gift cards are being manufactured every year, the influx of plastic into the economy and waste stream has caught the attention of environmentalists and consumers. The affordability and flexibility of PVC make it an attractive option for manufacturers, but the compound has been linked to several negative side effects including the release of carcinogenic toxins and chloride residues. Bioplastics are changing that.

Derived from renewable resources like cornstarch and vegetable oil, bioplastics cut petroleum out of the manufacturing cycle. The biodegradable plastic naturally breaks down in soil, fresh and saltwater environments. This manufacturing technique has the potential to reduce the use of nonrenewable energy in plastic gift cards by over 95 percent.

Aggressive recycling programs at point of purchase are also boosting the percentage of gift cards that get reused. Retailers collect spent gift cards directly from customers who then pass them to recycling companies that shred them and remanufacture them into gift cards. The perennial popularity of gift cards means they are here to stay. By implementing recycling and manufacturer practices that focus on renewable energy and reuse of existing PVC, gift card programs can help improve the environment and reduce the overall carbon footprint of the consumer economy.

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