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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Can I Recycle Credit Cards?

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With all our credit cards, membership cards, and gift cards, we’re carrying more plastic in our wallets than ever.

Dear Recyclebank,

Can I put old credit cards in my recycling bin?

-Bonnie M., Mount Dora, FL

Dear Bonnie,

Most credit cards and other wallet cards are made from PVC (number 3 plastic), which is commonly accepted by recycling programs. However, cards these days contain all kinds of technology that interfere with the recycling process. One company, Earthworks Systems, used to collect PVC cards, grind them up, and melt them down to create new, 100-percent recycled cards. But Rodd Gilbert, founder and president of Earthworks Systems, says he is no longer soliciting cards because of contamination problems from holograms, scratch-off material, and embedded chips. Gilbert says he is working on new uses for the processed material from PVC cards, which people continue to send to him.

Contamination problems aside, the first thing you should do is verify whether or not your municipality accepts number 3 plastic, and specifically credit cards, membership cards, or gift cards. If they do, play it safe and cut off any holograms or chips, which should go in the trash. If your city doesn’t accept PVC for recycling, consider finding novel uses for the cards without sensitive information (empty gift cards, for example). A cleaned card can be used as a pastry cutter or a “razor” for hair removal creams, and a guitar pick punch will make quick, colorful use of any plastic card. For credit cards or IDs, the benefits of financial security might outweigh the costs to the environment. To prevent the risk of identity theft, we recommend just cutting up the cards and tossing them in the trash.

How do you responsibly dispose of old plastic cards? Tell us in the comments below!

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About the Author
Amy Spriggs
Amy Spriggs

From aluminum recycling to xeriscaping, I'm learning as much as I can about living sustainably every day.

  • Ericis J. 1 year ago
    Great ideas!? Let's shred the plastic and make useless frames and decorations. Well what then, when you die and your ugly plant holders need to be tossed out into the ocean? The collective, "we", just create these seemingly smart products, but there isn't a smart way to reverse engineer them back to eco-friendly scraps. We (too big to fail conglomerates) are just a bunch of infants making a mess and making lots of money. But we are not being responsible is the bottom line. We are assembling and mashing a thousand contaminants together in these glued-together-products, in the form of smart-phones, tablets, computers, printers, automobiles (virtually everything) -- and they are contaminating our very existence as well as the rest of the creatures that share this world with us.
  • Shalee R. 2 years ago
    I cut them up and put them in a collage when we got out of debt to remind me dont go back there
  • dan e. 2 years ago
    gift cards can be punched out for guitar pics. my daughter uses them for her son
  • Mary D. 2 years ago
    Shred with shredder alone so can use in garden, for crafts, bottle weights etc. Kids even made a nice mosaic heart on front of homemade Valentines Day card for Grandpa. He said he would cherish forever since it meant they were doing green things to help preserve environment for generations to come. :)
  • Lorraine T. 2 years ago
    Many home shredders can shred credit cards into tiny, colorful pieces; they look great in one of those bottles you want to keep for no reason or to anchor stems in a vase.
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