How to recycle your PVC credit, membership, mobile top up and loyalty cards!

Filed in Blog by on January 6, 2010 18 Comments
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Rick recycles old PVC cards into guitar picks

Rick recycles old PVC cards into guitar picks

I love simple ideas that make a difference. And I love to hear about people who are making a difference with their innovative ideas!

This week I caught up with Rick Rybicki who has found a creative reuse for PVC credit cards. We’ve covered this topic before when we honoured the plastic credit card as our dustbin demon last August. Just how many credit cards, loyalty cards and membership cards end up in landfill every year?

Rick’s son, Joe Rybicki, used to collect these cards, much like people collect stamps or swap cards. When Rick’s son had outgrown them he was going to throw them out, but Rick, a special needs teacher from Todmorden in the North West, intervened.

“I’m naturally frugal and can’t bear to throw anything away.” he told me. “My father was a Polish peasant and my Mother was brought up as a young person during the war. Both parents were really careful and now I don’t throw anything away. I recycle, compost and grow some of my own food.”

Rick held on to these albums of plastic credit cards, knowing that *one day* he would find a use for them.

Eighteen months ago, inspiration struck. Rick used to be a leather worker, so utilising some of his old knowledge, skills and equipment Rick popped out a few guitar picks (which he has branded “Recyclopicks”) to sell on eBay. His idea took off and he has sold a few hundred. Rick sells them in sets of 5 for 99p. Shop bought ones cost around 50p each, so not only is the environment benefiting (most picks are made from virgin nylon / plastic) , but Rick’s customers are getting a great deal. His feedback includes “dont pay jim dunlop any money! give it to this guy, his picks are ace”, “Good Ebayer – Item arrived in great time A++++” and “funny quirky eco and they work well done you”

Ricks picks! Made from old plastic cards

Ricks picks! Made from old plastic cards

“I can’t promote my hobby any more unless I have more cards,” Rick says “I’m sure that businesses all across the UK have boxes of obsolete promotional cards that they are not using and will one day end up in the landfill.
Mobile phone shops are a prime example; once you’ve taken the tiny Sim card out of the plastic casing, I bet the rest of the card gets thrown away.” Rick tells me he could make 2 picks out of the remaining card. And from each full sized card he uses such as fake credit cards, loyalty cards and membership cards he can make 3 picks.

Later this year he is going to be making ‘Ecopicks’ which are smaller than his Recyclopicks and means Rick will be able to get 5 out of each card. Rick can use 2/3 of the material from each card; the rest is scrapped at the moment, but this is still saving a huge amount of plastic from landfill. Currently, around 17 billion plastic credit cards and membership cards are produced every year, the majority of which end up in landfill.

Rick is due to retire in the summer, but if his hobby takes off, who knows? He might be setting himself up in business, rather than retiring!

You can help Rick out by sending him your cards for recycling. Any plastic card that is no longer of any use to you such as mobile phone top up cards, the cards that surround SIM cards, gift voucher cards, loyalty cards, club cards or AA membership cards and does not contain any ID sensitive information is ideal.

If you have a business and you’re sitting on some defunct PVC promotional cards, why not contact Rick at rick.robit AT btinternet DOT com to arrange donation?

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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 (18)

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  1. What a fab idea. Love it 🙂 x

  2. What a great idea! I had no idea what these things were made of and now it just makes me sick to know I own many of these. I will be thinking of creative and clever idea’s on how to reuse these items from now on. Thanks for bringing this to my attention and I will pass on this great into to all of my readers as well.

  3. Compact UK says:

    This is such a great idea, I have a stack of them after a big declutter. I wonder what else you’d be able to make from them… Thank you for this article!

  4. LJayne says:

    This is brilliant. I give them to my kids to play shops with at the moment but it won’t be long before they are outgrowing them.

    And I SO hate the switch from paper gift vouchers to plastic/pvc gift cards.

  5. Jane says:

    Keep an old and unimportant one to scrape ice off the car windscreen!

  6. Sandie says:

    Thanks for sharing such a super idea!

  7. Rick Rybicki says:

    @Sandie: I’m pleased to see that there is some interest in my little project. Already a couple of visitors to the site have been in touch with a view to gathering up and sending some old cards. A few of my work collegues had seen the article so I came home today with a back pocket full of “plastic”. If I can be pretty certain of a supply of old cards, then I can promote the product and hopefully make a very small impression on the use of new plastic and the dumping of old. It may seem a very insignificant amount but if we all do some little “insignificant” thing it can make a very significant difference.
    Sermon over……….send me the old cards please.
    Thanks, Rick.

  8. Sandie says:

    Hi Rick,

    The power of ‘Social Networking’ should be able to help you obtain a regular supply of cards.

    Are you on facebook or twitter? You could ask people there to send you their old cards.

    What is the address that you would like the cards sent to? Do you have a PO Box address for sharing with folk you don’t know?

    Great work – I wish you all the very, very best wish it.

  9. Rick Rybicki says:

    @Sandie: Hi Sandi, my email address is written “in words” at the bottom of the article. Drop me an email and I’ll reply with my address.
    Thanks a lot, Rick

  10. J J C F deHavillan ALCM says:

    These plectrums are awesome!
    They are very comfortable and cheap!
    They produce a wonderful sound and are the perfect thickness and size.
    The shape produces a wonderful tone and clarity.
    I could not be more happy with these picks,

    These are not just picks,
    These are super picks.

    They help the environment with style!

    These give a far far better sound than the plectrums in the shops!

    Thanks a lot Rick for these super picks!

    John.

  11. Rick Rybicki says:

    @Sandie: Hi Sandie, did you not work out my email address, it’s at the bottom of the article. Rachelle didn’t want to put put the actual email address in order to ward off the spammers. Send me an email and I’ll forward my address.
    You asked am I on facebook etc. well I’m on my space and face book but don’t find them very user friendly, probably because I hardly use them. I think I’ve got a total of about 10 “friends” on both systems together!!!!
    I put info and links to the article on both systems.
    Best wishes, Rick.

  12. Mr L says:

    but my question is – How do I recycle these when they are no longer any god as the product they have been made into and what happens to the offcuts?

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Mr L: Mr L; the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle, are in that order for a reason. Rick is redominantly reducing the amount of this plastic that initially ends up in landfill. Sure all recycling projects will ultimately end up landfilled; but in the meantime we can make varied and useful items from materials that would otherwise be ‘once use’

  14. Rick Rybicki says:

    Hi, Just thought I’d let you all know that “Recyclopicks” are back on ebay after a longish break due to moving to another house.
    I’ve got loads of cards to cut up but the more the merrier.
    I’m still recycling, composting, rain saving and preparing to start growing my own veg again in a slightly warmer part of the country.

  15. Rick Rybicki says:

    @Mr L: Hi Mrs L.
    I make no apology for throwing away the off-cuts and I don’t think I’ve ever known a plectrum to wear out to the point where iot is thrown away. They usually get lost or lent never to return!!!
    I actually use about 75% of the material so that’s a fair reduction of waste. I realise this is reuse of material rather than actual recycling but it is reducing waste.
    The more players using “Recyclopicks” the less virgin material is being used for comercial plectrums. Yes I know it’s a drop in the ocean…………but we individuals can only do what we can do. Unless we get together to really change things!!!!
    Best wishes, Rick.

  16. Ben says:

    The amount of plastic cards I need to throw away has dramatically decreased since I changed my mobile phone to electronic top-up, rather than use single use plastic cards each time. Store loyalty cards, although stamped with dates (many of mine long since expired) seem to keep working forever, and my bank account cards get used for about 3 years each. I will start saving old cards for reuse now, but it could be a while before I have enough to justify posting them.

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Rick Rybicki: Thanks for the updates Rick; glad to hear things are still working out for you. I thought of you the other day when I was sent a Tesco plastic card to sign up to their DVD club
    @Ben: Good to hear about electronic top up Ben; I haven’t used my top up card yet but no doubt that will come around soon …

  18. Shane says:

    Great idea, and a great way to recycle! This is such an ingeneous way to recycle and create some awareness. Have you had any well known musicians promote your picks… might be a great story to throw their way and generate more awareness about recycling.

    On a side note, do you have any ideas on the newer “chip” cards (i.e., Visa, Mastercard, etc.)?

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