UK Project Successfully Recycled One Million PVC Gift Cards

Having proved the concept, investment in infrastructure is the next step with an eye towards loyalty and hotel key cards next.

Gift cards are a convenient present of a choice but they don’t exactly have a great recycling story at end of life. So I read with interest a news release that stated a project in the UK successfully recycled one million old PVC store gift cards and will provide material for use in new products, such as pipes, reportedly saving 10 tons of plastic from being landfilled.

Called the RecoCard project, it was launched by resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting and the British Plastics Federation (BPF). They partnered with a retailer; Jellyfish Livewire, a Hampshire-based digital marketing agency and gift card producer; and a specialist recycler.

Already worth £5.6 billion a year, the UK market for PVC gift and store cards continues to grow. Around two billion are produced each year, with an equivalent weight 2,500 tons. Most cards are redeemed in store and thrown away, eventually ending up in a landfill.

Recognizing the disposal challenge, Jellyfish Livewire decided to explore a take-back scheme and specialist recycling system as part of its Green Gift Card initiative. The retailer had approximately one million old and out-of-date cards. At Jellyfish Livewire’s premises, 25 pallets holding the PVC and PETG cards were manually separated from the cardboard carriers and sorted into material types.

The PVC cards were reprocessed into granules to make irrigation pipes. According to the project partners, the initiative proved that PVC store cards can be recycled successfully.

Having proved the concept, investment in infrastructure is the next step. This includes a collection hub for PVC cards, including those redeemed in store, that’s near to the recycler so material can be transferred in bulk loads to minimize transport costs. The project could be extended to other types of cards, such as loyalty cards and hotel key cards.

Francisco Morcillo, Head of Public and Industrial Affairs at the BPF stated:

“Once again, PVC is showing how its sustainability credentials have stepped up to the plate. Retailers have now the option to contribute further to a more circular economy by getting involved with the scheme.”