Can you recycle your plastic credit card?

Filed in Blog by on May 18, 2009 28 Comments
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recycle your PET1 cards

PET plastic membership cards can be recycled

Back in august last year, I had a bit of a strop about plastic credit cards.

Around 17 billion plastic credit cards and membership cards are produced every year; the majority of which end up in the landfill when they expire.

Most credit cards are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is a petroleum-based plastic, currently non-recyclable.
Poly lactic acid (PLA) cards biodegrade in 82 days, but not in the landfill. They are made from corn starch; and I’m not sure I’m happy to take someone’s food source to make myself a plastic card!

The majority of companies will not use the best alternative – PET, because it costs 20% more than PVC

However, one company is getting the zero waste towers thumbs up from us this week!

Hot off the press from our lovely Maisie is good news about her most recent plastic membership card for the Co-operative. Maisie received a replacement card this week; flipped it over to sign her name and found a wondrous sight.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there, nestling in the corner of her card was a tiny PET1 triangle! This means, when her card expires, she can recycle it at her local civic amenity site.

What pleasant surpises have you had recently in the world of recycling and reducing landfill waste?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (28)

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  1. Sarah says:

    Woohoo! That’s fabulous!

  2. John Costigane says:

    H Mrs Green,

    Plastic credit cards are landfill bound in the main, The Automobile Association offer to take old ones back, but only with the AA logo. Maisie’e PET card is a better option which should gain ground and hopefully with easy recycling.

    After the recent foil covered teabag nonsense, I rediscovered the pleasures of loose tea, more work to prepare but better tasting.

  3. Katy says:

    Beware – just because it is PET 1, doesn’t mean the site will take it. Our kerbside collection includes PET 1 plastic bottles, but not other kinds of PET 1 (e.g. plastic sandwich containers). Apparently different thicknesses and forms of PET react differently in the recycling process and by collecting just bottles, it guarantees better quality (more saleable) recyclate. Obviously this will vary across authorities.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    @Sarah: Loving your smiling face, Sarah 🙂

    @John Costigane: I’d be interested to hear what the Automobile Association do with the cards, John – do you know?
    Glad you are enjoying your tea. Do the leaves go into the bokashi or on the compost heap?

    @Katy: Thanks for the heads up, Katy. They don’t take all types of PET here either, but I **think** they do where Maisie lives. They did when we were in Devon on holiday too. Confusing eh?
    Maisie, you’ll have to set up a collection point for zero waste readers!

  5. On the literature which comes from the council, it says “all plastics with PET1 and HDPE 2 symbols eg plastic bottles” and this is for our kerbside collection.

  6. I like the way that Sainsburys have altered thier own label packaging now to give you more info on which bits of the packaging can be recycled, very similar to that which Co-op uses.

    This means that you check a product out for packaging recycling possibilities before purchasing.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: Hi Maisie, good to see things outlined clearly from your council. it sounds like you are able to recycle a lot. We are still limited to plastic milk and water bottles. Good to hear about Sainsbury’s too. They are obviously making some changes at the moment because I order tins of chickpeas from them and this week they came in a tetrapak rather than a tin – lighter for transport costs I guess.

  8. Yes I noticed all their own brand beans and pulses which are usually in tins are now in tetra-pak.

    We had a sponsored walk at school this week, the PTA always buy some lollies for the kids for at the end, The Jubbly lollies now have the tetra-pak marking on them so that makes them easier to deal with; I collected all the bits in a bucket brought them home and gave them a good rinse by filling the bucket with warm water, they flatten nicely so don’t even fill an icecream tub now and are easy for me to take to the HWRC.

  9. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    At the bank today, a visit concerning Anna’s estate (surprise, surprise), I was informed of the bank’s recycling of all types of plastic card by melting them down. This is a good development since bank’s are convenient places to leave such expired plastic.

    Further details of the process will be required to ensure the Zero Waste credentials of such treatment. My next essential visit should get more details. As usual, some degree of scepticism is necessary to prove the actions match the words.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: thanks for the update on the lollies, Maisie; that’s a big market with the potential for a lot of waste, so this is good news! Although I prefer home made 😉

    @John Costigane: What great news about the recycling at the banks, John, I’ll look into this too, as, like you, I’m a little sceptical without looking into it further.

    I noticed on my Smile card today it says ‘towards a PVC free future’ along the back – I need to investigate to see what is behind this statement 🙂

  11. @Mrs Green: this will be probably because “smile” is part of the Co-operative.

  12. Rick Rybicki says:

    I want your old plastic cards!!!!!!!!
    Look on ebay for “Recyclopicks”
    I make them. I can use nearly all plastic cards you can send me.
    This is not a bussiness but just me making a point about recycling. I really would be grateful for any plastic cards and would also be pleased if you had a look at the product on ebay.
    Email me to arrange collection or postage.
    I’m based in Todmorden in the North West.
    Thanks, Rick

  13. Anne says:

    @Rick Rybicki:
    Do you mean the fake ‘credit cards’, eg the ones Tesco send me to get friends to join their DVD Club?
    Regards, Anne

  14. Rick Rybicki says:

    @Anne: Hi, I mean any plastic card that is no longer of any use to you. Mobile phone top up cards, the cards that surround SIM cards, gift voucher cards, loyalty cards, club cards and yes, the fake things that come through the post. I’ve also had old personel ID cards with photos, old bank cards, plastic card insurance certificates, AA membership cards…….any thing that any one is prepared to let me cut up. Obviously some are more ID sensitive than others but they are all cut up.
    Thanks for contacting,

  15. Anne says:

    This is excellent – I’ll certainly be in touch in the new year – I’ve been looking for a way to reuse these for a couple of years! I’ll definitely be in touch when I have a few to pass on!

  16. Rick Rybicki says:

    @Anne: Hi Anne, thats, great. Pass the message on!
    Thanks, Rick.

  17. Tom p says:

    Hi all! i am wandering if the statistic of 17 billion a year equates to the english short usage (1, 000, 000 ,000) or the general usage of 1, 000, 000, 000, 000)

    I am making art with PVC cards and am astounded by these figures!

    thanks for your help!


  18. Rick Rybicki says:

    @Tom p: Hi TomT, Which ever number it relates to, don’t use ’em all!!
    Leave me a few for my picks.
    Best wishes, Rick.

  19. Lisa Berghaus says:

    Have you seen Monadnock Paper Mills new Envi Gift Card stock – it’s not PVC, it’s all paper, Forest Stewardship Council certified, and it’s recyclable – just toss it into the mixed bin after use.

  20. Rick Rybicki says:

    @John Costigane: Look back in this thread and you’ll find the article about “Recyclopicks”. I make and sell plectrums cut from used plastic cards. They are available on Ebay as “Recyclopicks” or a smaller type called “Ecopicks”.
    They are well rated by buyers and users. So if you use plectrums……..Use “Recyclopicks” or “Ecopicks”!!!!!!
    Cheers, Rick.

  21. Mrs Green says:

    @Lisa Berghaus: Nice news Lisa – thank you for sharing!

  22. Tracey says:

    Oddly, after my partner came over to give me a cup of tea (and give our Qwerty kitty a tickle under the chin), he spotted my computer and asked what I was looking at… Then suggested googling “Indistructibles”…

    I did and a couple of very random clicks later, I spotted “Bending a credit card into a phone stand using a lighter”… I’m not saying it’s THE way to save the world, but I’ve been after a phone stand for my mobile and I imagine it could be quite handy for an MP3-player or possibly even a post-it-note holder or something…?

    Very odd and so coincidental! 🙂

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @Tracey: Hahaha, brilliant! Some of the things on this site are utterly amazing – I love seeing how creative people can get. Let us know if you get around to making one; it might be the start of a budding cottage industry for you 😉

  24. JJ says:

    @Rick Rybicki: Rick please can you put your email address down so I can contact you regarding sending you loads of annoying plastic cards, mostly mobile phone top up cards that the irresponsible phone companies just send you regardless of you requesting that you don’t want one.

  25. Rick Rybicki says:

    Hi JJ, I’ve noticed that other people don’t post there personal email addresses on this site but it’s easy enough to send messages via the site.
    Unfortunately I can collect cards much quicker than I can move the product so I have plenty of cards at present.
    Best wishes, Rick.

  26. Mrs Green says:

    @Rick Rybicki: Hi Rick, there is no way to send messages via the site – only I can see people’s email addresses. So you’ll either have to post up in another comment or give me permission to send your email address to JJ 🙂

  27. Rick Rybicki says:

    Thanks for that Mrs. Green. You have my permission to send my email address to JJ.
    “Recyclopicks” and “Ecopicks” are still for sale on Ebay.
    Cheers, Rick.

  28. Kevin Chen says:

    Earthworks will recycle it:

    Someone on a different site said that the address for mailing the cards is
    Earthworks c/o Halprin Ind.
    25840 Miles Rd.
    Bedford, OH 44146.

    but I haven’t verified, so I’d email them to be sure.

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