How to Recycle Gift Cards and Other Ways to Reuse Them

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With Christmas coming up in a couple of weeks, you probably need to learn how to recycle gift cards! Most people get at least one or two this month and they don’t need to be thrown away! Repurpose your gift cards to keep them out of our landfill. Keep reading for a few uses for old gift cards that you might find helpful! If you are looking for other ways to live green this year, check out my post on stuffed animal recycling and battery recycling!

How to Recycle Gift Cards and Other Creative Re-purposing Ideas

Are gift cards recyclable?

Think About This:  According to, 1.6 billion gift cards are printed every year in the United States. This massive gift card creation uses approximately 9000 tons of plastic and 33,260 tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere. That is a huge impact!

Most people don’t really think twice about tossing a used gift card into the trash can but when 1.6 billion of them are thrown away every year it is definitely taking a toll on our environment. 

Gift Card Recycling and Ways to Upcycle them

How to Recycle Gift Cards

Gift cards, credit cards, and other plastic cards are made of PVC plastic (#3), which is recyclable. Not all curbside recycling programs except it, however. Call yours before tossing it into the recycling bin and ask them what to do with used gift cards.

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Like this post about gift card recycling?  Check out these recycling tips, too:

Ask the store associates when you shop if they recycle spent gift cards. Many will take them back right at the register and send them off for recycling. They know how to recycle gift cards better than consumers and will have better access to recycling facilities.

How to Recycle Gift Cards and Other Creative Re-purposing Ideas

What to Do With Old Gift Cards

So, what can you do about this environmental nightmare? Learn how to repurpose gift cards! Here are a few suggestions as to what you can do to help lessen your gift card carbon footprint:

Check out gift card recycling on Pinterest.  

Create a clever bookmark from an old gift card or  DIY stencils for preschoolers. You can also make a beautiful mosaic out of them.

Send them to RecycleThisCard  

They will take your spent gift cards and recycle them into slightly more earth-friendly plastics.

gift card in christmas gift box

Recharge Your Card and Give It as a Gift.

Bring your gift card to the store it is made for and ask them if they can reload it! Or, recharge it and give it as a gift.  This works will for popular stores. Your empty Starbucks gift card could become a gift for your teenager. 

Use them for scrapbooking

Gift cards often have beautiful pictures on them. Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut out the designs and use them in scrapbooking or making homemade cards. This is a great way to recycle Disney gift cards. 

Do home repairs with them

Use them around the house and garage as a straight edge for drawing, fixing a wobbly table, getting rid of air bubbles when wallpapering or scraping melted candle wax off your counter top.

Turn them into guitar picks

Purchase a guitar pick punch and turn your old gift cards into guitar picks!

woman on computer

Alternative types of gift cards

Many companies are starting to clue into the effect their gift cards have on the environment and are changing from traditional PVC based gift cards to biodegradable cards made from corn-based products. Hopefully, this will become the norm soon but it is a slow process. Apparently the biodegradable cards don’t hold the ink pigments as well as PVC and tend to fade so retailers are hesitant to make the switch.

Until this issue is addressed, most manufacturers will continue to use PVC-based cards. Give an electronic gift certificate, which can be emailed or texted to the recipient with no physical materials being used. Print out a paper gift card and wrap that in a small box. Recycle the paper once the card is used. Will you be reycling gift cards this year? Find a location in your area to recycle gift cards using the recycling search tool on Earth911

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