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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. more
  • Marilyn Z. 2 days ago
    Where can I recycle mascara brushes? I know someone uses them to clean fowl after they have been in an oil spill.
  • carol m. 1 month ago
    I use them for scraping glue onto my craft works
  • Dianne H. 1 month ago
    I saved mine up for a few years. Sat down one day and cut them all up and made some really cool mosaic pictures with hot glue gun. Lots of fun!
  • Julia P. 2 months ago
    I have seen bins for recycling gift cards at some retailers, such as Best Buy. Keep an eye out as you enter stores--there is often some recycling bins you may not know about but might find useful in future.
  • George J. 2 months ago
    Walmart also will recycle gift cards.

    For credit cards, my ex may have been paranoid, but she was right on this. Cut your card in half and recycle each half a month apart. Do not volunteer for identity theft.
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