A pioneering trial has resulted in the successful recycling of one million PVC store gift cards.
The RecoCard project was managed by Axion Consulting and involved retailer B&Q, digital marketing agency and gift card producer Jellyfish Livewire and specialist recycler Rubber Plastic Collection Service (RPCS).
Around two billion PVC gift and store cards are produced in the UK each year, some 2,500 tonnes, and the market for them is growing. Most cards are redeemed in-store and then thrown away, where they end up in landfill. Due to changes in branding or marketing offers, some never reach stores.
Jellyfish Livewire instigated a take-back scheme and specialist recycling system for such cards as part of its Green Gift Card initiative. Initially it partnered with the British Plastics Federation to test the concept in a low-volume trial using mobile phone sim card bodies, with the material reprocessed by a specialist recycler.
After success with the initial trial, it set up a larger trial with B&Q which had recalled all its plastic store cards – around a million – to replace them with cardboard ones for environmental reasons.
The trial involved manually separating the PVC and PETG cards from their cardboard carriers and sorting them into material types. The PVC cards were reprocessed by Berkshire-based RPCS into granules to make irrigation pipes.
Jane Gardner, principal consultant at Axion Consulting, said: “This is an excellent example of how a ‘short-life’ PVC product like a gift card can be recycled into a ‘long-life’ one such as pipes. As the first trial of its type, we have shown that gift cards can be recycled successfully and our eventual aim is to extend the scheme to more companies.”
Graham Lycett, Jellyfish Livewire managing director, added: “There will always be a need for both cardboard and plastic cards. As long as we can close the loop for the plastic ones by offering a proper recycling scheme for PVC cards, I think we tick every box and provide retailers with a choice.”
Having proved the concept, retail industry support and greater consumer awareness would be needed to develop the scheme. The next step would be to set up a collection hub near to the recycler so that material could be transferred in bulk.
The scheme offers potential to be extended to other types of cards, such as loyalty cards and hotel key cards.