Each year, it’s believed that 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into our oceans. From single-use plastic bags to cigarette butts, this plastic pollution suffocates marine life and destroys coastal habitats. If we don’t act soon enough, scientists predict that we’ll produce close to a billion tons of plastic by 2050.
Fortunately, governments, corporations, and ordinary citizens all over the world recognize that we cannot create a sustainable future without solving the ocean plastic problem. Credit card companies are partnering with ocean cleanup corporations to design and produce credit cards made from recycled ocean plastics.
CPI card group, American Express, and Thales are just some of the leading credit card manufacturers and issuers working to bring recovered ocean plastic credit cards to customers worldwide.
Card materials and plastic biodegradability
Plastics are one of humanity’s most recent inventions. Developed at the turn of the twentieth century, they began to dominate the modern economy only after the end of World War II when manufacturers realized how cheap, clean, and versatile they were for producing consumer goods.
Why are most credit cards made of plastic?
Most credit cards are made from a highly durable synthetic plastic known as PVC (polyvinyl chloride). PVC is used because of its low cost, resistance to environmental degradation, and high hardness.
These qualities enable plastic credit cards to last at least 3 to 4 years, which is the average amount of time a card is valid for. Credit cards have to be able to withstand changes in temperature when they’re brought outside for shopping and making payments, in addition to general wear and tear when used at point-of-sale terminals.
Each year, more than 6.4 billion credit cards are issued to customers worldwide, according to a study by The Nilson Report, a publication that reports on the credit card industry.
Are plastic credit cards being replaced by recycled ocean plastic cards?
Plastic credit cards have yet to be replaced by more environmentally-friendly options like recycled ocean plastic cards. But there are plans underway in more than 60 financial institutions, including multinational banks such as DBS and Santander, to issue credit cards made from recycled ocean plastics and biodegradable materials.
In addition to that effort, the world’s two largest credit card companies, Mastercard and Visa, are helping their bank partners source sustainable card materials. Mastercard is building a directory of sustainable plastic suppliers while Visa is developing partnerships with innovative plastic manufacturers to roll out green credit cards globally.
In many parts of the world, it’s not difficult to find recovered ocean plastics. According to CPI card group, a Colorado-based payment technologies company, most ocean or ocean-bound plastics are recovered within 50 kilometers of a coast or near rivers and streams that lead to the ocean. This abundance of ocean plastics creates huge opportunities for the credit card industry to recycle them into credit cards.
Can biodegradable credit cards help fight climate change?
Biodegradable credit cards can definitely help keep more trash away from oceans and landfills.
With less plastic waste entering the environment, we can help improve carbon sequestration by microalgae in our oceans and reduce the amount of microplastics that harm animals.
Biodegradable plastics can also help us solve our current plastic waste problem because they decompose about a thousand times faster than regular plastics. With the help of sunlight, soil, and microorganisms, a biodegradable plastic credit card will degrade in about 3 to 6 months. Regular PVC plastic credit cards, in contrast, take about 450 years to break down.
These recovered plastics are also just as sturdy and durable as new plastics, and remove the need for us to create new plastics.
How are consumers shaping the demand for green credit cards?
Recent consumer surveys show that 96% of shoppers are concerned about the amount of plastic waste going into the ocean. Most were in favor of products that could help prevent and/or reduce plastic pollution, such as recycled ocean plastic or biodegradable credit cards.
Many credit card companies have taken heed of customer’s growing concern for plastic pollution and their desire to effect positive change with their money.
As this trend grows, it’s highly likely that the demand for green credit cards will also increase.
Is recycling plastic enough at this point?
For the moment, recycling plastic to make credit cards, clothing, and other everyday essentials is enough to divert a huge amount of plastics from entering into and staying in the world’s oceans. According to some estimates, for every 1 million recycled ocean plastic credit cards produced, more than 1 ton of plastic will be prevented from polluting our oceans, rivers, and shorelines.
While drastically cutting down on the amount of ocean plastics may require more radical measures, investing in a more eco-friendly credit card can be a great place to start.
The best recycled ocean plastic cards
Earthwise™ High Content Card
The Earthwise™ High Content Card is one of the first recycled ocean plastic credit cards to be endorsed by Visa. Designed to help reduce first-use synthetic plastic in plastic cards, Visa hopes to provide all of its partnering financial institutions access to this card within the next few years.
The Earthwise™ credit card is made from 98% upcycled plastic and comes with EMV security technology, which allows it to be used as a contact, contactless, and mobile payment card. The card is designed and manufactured by CPI card group.
Second Wave® Credit Card
Featuring a core made from recovered ocean plastic debris, the Second Wave® credit card is another green credit card offered by CPI. CPI works with ocean cleanup organizations to recover the ocean-bound plastic before it disintegrates into smaller particles and microplastics, which are often mistaken as food by wildlife.
Since the launch of the Second Wave® credit card in September 2019, CPI has produced and delivered over 25 million of these cards to its partners. The company estimates that 10 tons of plastic have been diverted away from the oceans as a result.
American Express Green Card
In 2020, American Express relaunched its iconic Green Card to mark the card’s 50th anniversary. The revamped card is made from 70% reclaimed plastic collected from beaches and islands in collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, a multidisciplinary ocean conservation group.
The new Amex Green Card comes with a $150 annual fee that provides you with 3X Membership Rewards points on eligible travel and dining purchases. There is no introductory or regular purchase APR.
Amex plans to introduce a credit card recycling program soon to accompany its Green Card. It also announced plans recently to organize beach cleanups with Parley to remove up to 1 million pounds of plastic from the world’s coastal communities.
Thales Gemalto Reclaimed Ocean Card
The Thales Gemalto Reclaimed Ocean Card uses ocean-bound plastic recovered from beaches and waterways. Each card is made from 70% recovered plastic, equivalent to about one reclaimed plastic bottle.
Thales’ recycled ocean plastic credit cards have the same durability as standard PVC cards and cater to eco-conscious consumers concerned with plastic pollution. By tackling post-consumer waste, Thales hopes that customers will see the damage that consumerism does to the environment and the simple actions required to prevent it.
The Aspiration Zero credit card helps you fight climate change
While recycled ocean plastic credit cards can help you reduce plastic pollution, they don’t help you tackle the climate problem as a whole. To do so, the very way money is spent may need to change.
Our Aspiration Zero carbon credit card can help you to actively track and reduce your carbon footprint. Not only can you increase your awareness of the effect of your purchases through our app, but we will plant a tree on your behalf each time you make a purchase.
In months where you make enough purchases that your spending reaches carbon zero, we will reward you with 1% cashback on all of your purchases.
Join the waitlist for the Aspiration Zero today and make your money do good for the environment.