Credit cards have become a basic necessity in the modern world.
Even though you want to hold on to them forever, credit cards have a short lifespan. Beyond the fact that they have an expiry date, sometimes you want to change your credit card issuer.
When this happens, your previous credit cards become useless. So, what do you do with the old credit cards?
Do you discard them? This begs the question, are credit cards recyclable?
The shortest answer is yes, no. Credit cards are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material, which is not recyclable.
Then, there is the issue of identity fraud, if the card gets into the wrong hands during the recycling process.
If you are as curious, we’ll answer this bugging question.
What Kind of Material is Credit Cards Made of?
Most credit cards are made of plastic, plastic substitute, chip, or metal, making it even more complicated to determine whether credit cards are recyclable.
Whichever material your credit card is made of, the fact remains that recycling them is a complex process.
Most credit cards are made of plastic, and plastics are classified into different material grades.
The most commonly used plastic material in making credit cards is polyvinyl chloride acetate which consists of 40% petroleum and 60% chlorine.
The mixture of these two compounds makes credit cards durable to the extent that they can withstand extreme external environmental factors for many years.
According to Maesindo Paper Packaging Ltd, it takes up to 450 years for the PVC material in credit cards to biodegrade. Even if a credit card reaches its expiry date, it will still be in its best form for so many decades to come.
Is It Conceivable to Recycle Credit Cards?
Most plastic materials are easy to recycle. It’s not that simple when it comes to credit cards.
They contain vital information which can be detrimental to the owner if it gets into the wrong hands.
If you choose to dispose of your credit cards by recycling, it’s safer to cut the credit card into tiny pieces that are impossible for the information to be pieced together. Shredding will keep you safe in case the recycling process gets compromised.
What makes the recycling process even more complicated goes beyond protecting the credit card owner’s information.
Polyvinyl chloride, the primary material used in manufacturing credit cards, is highly toxic.
According to Healthy Child Healthy World, PVC is the most poisonous plastic material.
PVC has extreme chlorine levels, which causes pollution by releasing dioxins.
When inhaled or eaten by animals, these dioxins pile up in their fat throughout the entire food chain.
When humans or even animals get exposed to these dioxins, it will have deadly health effects.
Since it looks like it’s impossible to recycle a credit card, you may be asking what else you can do. Let’s delve into another option that might work.
What if You Throw the Credit Card Away?
Throwing your credit card away in the dustbin will have adverse effects.
Most of the wastes we dispose of usually end up in landfills. Disposed credit cards, after some years, turn into microplastics.
We’ll unknowingly consume the toxins through the food chain.
In a study done by the World Wildlife Fund, every single week, you’re likely ingesting microplastic particles almost the size of a credit card.
That’s where safe recycling comes in.
How to Safely Recycle a Credit Card?
Humans are naturally prone to invent other solutions when one fails. If throwing your credit card away is environmentally hazardous and recycling it doesn’t seem like a better option, is there a foolproof way to recycle your credit card?
Yes, Shredding! You might be thinking why this wasn’t the first option. I will explain.
Though shredding your credit card into tiny pieces seems like the most effective method because the security of your vital information is guaranteed.
It still doesn’t mean that the process will be successful. It all depends on how you go about it.
Credit cards have in-built iron or aluminum microchips in them.
Most shredders in the market cannot withstand the strength of aluminum or iron materials. If you shred your credit card, the microchip will remain intact.
So, how do you go about it? You can use a pair of scissors to cut the part with the chip out.
Then cut the chunk into tiny pieces using scissors and, while disposing of it, place the elements in different dustbins, just for security reasons.
The question is whether it’s even worth it to recycle credit cards.
Is It Worth It to Recycle Credit Cards?
Credit cards entail complicated processes, but the most significant gain is protecting the environment at the end of the day.
When expired credit cards are disposed of for recycling, they will have to be melted by fire; when exposed to heat, the PVC material used on the credit card releases highly carcinogenic toxins known as dioxins to the environment, inhaling these fumes can lead to severe damage to your organs.
Equally, when they are dumped in a landfill, the same effect happens through exposure to sunlight and moisture, which causes the plastic in the credit cards to break down, releasing toxic elements such as dyes and inks into the ground.
So, is recycling credit cards worth it? Not really, but even though it’s a tasking process, it might be the only viable option in alleviating the long-term effects of irresponsibly disposing of credit cards.
So, are credit cards recyclable? No, credit cards have PVC, which is very tricky to recycle. It’s also highly toxic.
That’s why deciding how best to dispose of credit cards depends on how you choose to go about it.
The best way to ensure that your vital information is safe is to remove the chip from the card and cut it into pieces using scissors and shred the plastic card thoroughly.
Disposing of credit cards by dumping them in a landfill also has harmful effects.
However, we should note that, regardless of which process you decide to get rid of your credit card, each has its own human and environmental risks.