The gift card industry is enormous. In 2021 alone, an estimated $171 billion in gift cards were sold in the United States and that number is expected to grow by nearly 10% annually to reach $239 billion by 2025. Furthermore, 51% of U.S. adults forget to redeem their gift cards – effectively allowing retailers to pocket the revenue without providing any good or services in return. For these reasons, it's clear that card-based marketing programs are a key component of the modern retail business model.
However, there is a downside to this phenomenon in retailing. Most commonly made out of polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC plastic, gift cards are a significant source of pollution and are detrimental to the environment.
The Environmental Impact of PVC Gift Cards
The PVC plastic used to manufacture most specialty gift cards is a particularly problematic form of plastic. Few recycling programs accept PVC. Even for those that do, the small size of a card increases the risk of contaminating the recycling stream. The long-term environmental impact of all that unrecycled PVC waste is alarming.
PVC gift cards end up in landfills
Assuming approximately 10 billion gift cards sold in the U.S. each year, up to 50,000 tons of PVC has the potential to end up in landfills annually. Considering that it takes PVC 500 years to break down, the cumulative effect of that waste year over year is staggering.
PVC creates CO2
The manufacturing of PVC gift cards also creates carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Assuming the same annual volume of 10 billion cards per year, that equates to more than 40,000 tons of CO2 generated annually.
PVC contains harmful chemicals
PVC itself is a toxic and potentially carcinogenic material. Chlorine, dioxin, cadmium, lead and phthalates are among the materials utilized in the creation of PVC. The problem is multiplied whenever PVC is incinerated – releasing those harmful compounds into the air.
Paper Gift Cards Offer a Sustainable Alternative
Thankfully, there is a practical and environmentally friendly alternative to PVC cards. Paper mills have developed paper card substrates that are specially engineered to provide the durability required. These paper-based cards eliminate the most serious environmental concerns associated with PVC gift cards.
- Paper-based gift cards are easily recycled in consumer recycling programs.
- The raw materials used for the paper substrates are often sourced from responsibly managed forests and carry an FSC® (Travel Tags FSC®-C007066) certification.
- Water-soluble glues and inks can be used to further reduce the environmental impact of the card manufacturing process.
A Leader in Sustainable Gift Card Manufacturing
Taylor is committed to sustainability and seeks to conduct business in an environmentally responsible manner by safeguarding precious natural resources. As one of the world’s largest producers of gift and loyalty cards, Taylor is leading the way in the industry’s adoption of paper-based gift cards. We have produced more than 100 million paper gift cards to date and helped retail giant Best Buy transition to recyclable paper gift cards in 2018.
Our gift card customers can choose from multiple paper substrates with varying percentages of post-consumer waste. We also offer more than a dozen card embellishments that do not affect the recyclability of the finished product. Taylor is a true single-source provider and delivers an end-to-end solution including:
- Card fulfillment for B2C, B2B and business-to-store applications
- Card packaging options including card on carrier, wraps, secure packages, and blister and blisterless multipacks
- Data management with best-in-class data security technology
Looking for a more sustainable, earth-friendly way to offer your customers gift cards? Contact us to learn more about Taylor’s paper-based card products.