How to Recycle Gift Cards and Other Ways to Reuse Them

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Did your holiday celebrations leave you with a ton of plastic gift cards? They don’t need to be thrown away. This post will help you learn how to recycle gift cards and repurpose them in creative ways to keep them out of our landfills.

Remember, even if you can’t send them to local recycling centers, you have options that keep used gift cards out of landfills. Whether it’s recycled, reused, or reloaded, do your part to keep them out of the waste stream.

kiosk of gift cards with text overlay 'How to Recycle and repurpose used gift cards'

Are gift cards recyclable?

Think About This: According to GiftRocket.com, 1.6 billion plastic gift cards are printed every year in the United States. I mean, they make a great last-minute gift, right? However, this creates approximately 9000 tons of plastic waste and 33,260 tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere. That is a huge impact!

Most people don’t really think twice about tossing gift cards 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. Add in all the gift bags, gift boxes, and gift wrap that’s exchanged during December, and our holiday footprint skyrockets.

tall stack of plastic cards with text overlay 'how to recycle gift cards'

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How to recycle gift cards

Gift cards, credit cards, luggage tags, hotel key cards, and other plastic cards are made of high-quality PVC plastic (#3), which is recyclable. It does, however, have a unique recycling process, and not all recycling centers or curbside programs except it.

Call your curbside recycling waste provider before tossing it into the recycling bin. If they CAN be recycled, share this info with your neighbors. Word of mouth is a simple way to have a positive impact on our planet.

Like this post? Here are more ideas for recycling:

Ask the store associates when you shop if they recycle spent gift cards. Many major retailers will take them back right at the register or offer a mail-in program so they can be recycled.

Earthworks Systems will accept old cards for recycling as does Terracycle. TerraCycle has created a zero-waste solution for all your plastic cards. Use the Terracycle Zero Waste Box to recycle any wallet-sized flexible plastic material, usually meant for the purpose of identification or for facilitating commercial transactions.

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 countertop.

Turn them into guitar picks

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

woman on computer

Choose Green 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 paper 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.

Sadly, it is often less expensive to make them out of new PVC as opposed to paying for the collection and recycling of polyvinyl chloride that is already floating around in our environment. Until this issue is addressed, most retailers will continue to use new PVC-based cards.

Give an electronic gift certificate, which can be emailed or texted to the recipient with no physical materials being used.

Skip the plastic whenever possible. Print out a paper gift card and wrap that in a small box. Recycle the paper once the card is used. Will you be recycling gift cards this year? Find a location in your area to recycle gift cards using the recycling search tool on Earth911

 

Make Your Voice Heard

If you want brands to change their habits, they need to know you care. Call up your favorite company or retailer and let them know that you want more sustainable options.

From paper to recycled plastic, companies have options. Let your favorite retailer know that if they want your money, they need to do better.

In response to consumer demand, Mastercard International Incorporated developed an eco-friendly credit card. These changes don’t happen unless consumers demand them. So speak up!

If you are looking for other ways to live green this year, check out my post on stuffed animal recycling and battery recycling.

And remember, recycling is only one of the 6 rs of sustainability.  Rethink your purchasing habits for a smaller carbon footprint.

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