Each year the popularity of giving gift cards only seems to increase. Most Americans buy at least one gift card for someone on their gift list, and those cards often add up to hundreds of dollars.

Environmental Impacts

To start with – physical gift cards aren’t good for the environment when they’re thrown out. Most modern gift cards are created using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which can take hundreds of years to decompose and also contains chemicals that can give off toxic fumes when it degrades. Unfortunately, your average residential recycling pickup generally won’t take gift cards.

However, there are some ways to reuse and recycle gift cards!

Gift Card Material

PVC, the same material used for most gift cards, is commonly found in PVC piping, mattress covers, shower curtains, records, vinyl home siding, and more. Unfortunately, when improperly discarded, PVC gift cards can harm the environment.

While it’s not the easiest substance to recycle, well-equipped facilities can recycle PVC many times over with little to no waste. There are still some ways to recycle PVC.

Recycling Gift Cards

So how do you go about recycling gift cards?

Some retailers will take used gift cards at their registers. These gift cards are then placed in a special bin designated for recycling. When purchasing a gift card, consider asking the retailer if they have an existing recycling program. Some companies make their gift cards from 100% recycled PVC.

If you can’t go back to the retailer, look for a local recycling center that accepts gift cards. Most should let you know if they they recycle gift card materials on their website or by phone.

Biodegradable Materials

Fortunately, there are certain major retailers like REI and Target that are now providing their customers with gift cards that have been manufactured from biodegradable materials. These cards are often made of a corn-based material and are designed to easily break down in a variety of composting systems.

Some gift cards are also made using paper products.

E-Gift Certificates

Amazon, Sephora, and iTunes are among the many retailers that now offer their customers e-gift certificates. These digital gift cards provide significant advantages. They are also a handy option for last-minute gifts!

Reloading Gift Cards

It’s also easy to reload gift cards that are rechargeable. There is no reason to throw these kind of cards away once they are used if you’re going to back to the same retailer or restaurant. They can usually load additional funds after the original amount is used.

Starbucks, Walmart and others use these types of gift cards. Some cards come with great designs on them, too!

Reusing Gift Cards

When there are no more funds left on the gift cards, they can be used for craft projects and even home remodeling.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Use gift card cut-outs to replace old collar stays in dress shirts
  • Make your own gift card earrings
  • Make them into unique luggage tags
  • Turn them into headphone holders
  • Use them for grouting projects or spackling

It’s now easier than ever to protect the environment from gift cards made of plastics.

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Cado is a community dedicated to the art of gift-giving. Our goals is to make life better through gifts of all kinds. We empower our audience to learn about the history of gifts, give them knowledge around gift-giving etiquette, and inspire them with ideas on how to give.