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Your wallet is one of the most precious items you can own. It’s full of personal information, cash and at least one credit card. In fact it’s likely to be full to the brim with small rectangular plastic cards, such as credit cards, debit cards, driving licences, student/employee IDs, gift cards, membership cards or travel cards like Oyster cards. However, wallets are also very easily lost! Therefore, for organisations such as hotels, transport companies, festivals and other visitor attractions that receive high volumes of lost property, wallets make up a significant proportion. 

Picture this: You’re an organisation that has a fair bit of lost property to handle. You’ve got countless wallets in your storage, full of redundant credit and debit cards, driving licences and travel cards. It’s been a few months and there’s no sign of the owners turning up to get these items back, so, it’s time to recycle them. But how should you process them?

This blog will explore the different procedures to follow to ethically get rid of plastic cards, covering:

notlost-lost-property-wallets
notlost-lost-property-driving-cards-licences

How do I dispose of a debit card or credit card? 

Firstly, do not throw away debit or credit cards into the bin – at least not in their current state. Doing so leaves the owner vulnerable to identity theft or identity fraud, which can ruin their credit rating, finances and cause great distress. Thus, it’s important to destroy credit cards properly before you throw them away. The following steps will ensure that any personal information is long gone! Here’s what you can do to ensure best practice:

  • Scribble on the signature area. Use a dark sharpie permanent marker to hide the signature.
  • Shred the card. Use a durable shredder to ensure all sensitive information is suitably cut up and can then be disposed of.
  • Cut up the card. Use sturdy scissors to cut through the EMV chip on the card. The EMV chip is the gold square above the long card number. Also cut through the magnetic strip, through the security code and diagonally through the long card number.
  • Distribute. Ensure you dispose of all the different bits of the card into different bins or at different times.
  • Optional additional measure: Before doing any of the above, demagnetise the black strip. Use a simple refrigerator magnet and rest it on the strip for about an hour. 

cards currently in circulation

cards produced in 2017 alone

Can I recycle a credit card?

As important as it is to clear the personal data from the card, it’s also important to dispose of credit cards ethically and sustainably. Therefore, we need to understand what the card is made of and where, if it can, this material is recycled. 

What are credit cards made of?

Firstly, bank cards, such as a credit card and debit card, are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is a strong and versatile type of plastic that is used in products such as flooring, pipes or wiring. Despite being useful and durable, PVC is in-fact carcinogenic. As a result, when it is sent to landfill, dangerous toxins can leach out of the PVC and harm the environment.

The carbon footprint of each card is approximately 21 grams thus during 2017, credit card manufacturing amounted to 136,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide. 

Tonnes of CO2 produced

Can PVC be recycled?

So, can you recycle PVC? Yes and no. It is very possible to recycle PVC credit cards but it can seem difficult. Most kerbside collections and recycling centres will not accept PVC credit cards. However, simply find a reliable place to send PVC waste and you are well on your way to recycling old plastic cards responsibly. PVC can be recycled into more credit cards or the materials that make up PVC can be separated and each utilised in other manufacturing processes.

Here are two examples of how schemes have been successful in recycling plastic cards.

Case Study – Papa Cartao

In 2017, a Brazillian company launched the Papa Cartao – a solution to help recycle more plastic. It is a purpose-built, sturdy box that shreds the cards, then the pieces are recycled to make new cards. These boxes are placed in banks, airports and shopping centres all over Brazil. Find out more. 

papa-cartao-plastic-recycling-card

Picture Source: (Papa Cartao)

Case Study – The RecoCard Project

In 2017, a scheme championed by company Axion Consulting successfully recycled 1 million PVC store gift cards, saving 10 tonnes of plastic from going to landfill. The cards were then repurposed into small granules that are used to make irrigation pipes. Find out more here

Picture Source: (RecoCard)

Where can I recycle PVC?

In light of the fact that PVC is such a popular choice of material for making bank cards, it’s important to know how you can sustainably dispose of these items. Simply find an appropriate recycling organisation that accepts PVC waste, such as the following:

  • ID Card Centre – Whilst this UK company produces and prints ID cards, they also encourage recycling PVC cards. Find out more about their service and how you can send them your waste plastic cards here.
  • Terracycle – This recycling superpower has created a zero waste solution for plastic cards with boxes that recycle any wallet-sized plastic card. Find out how you can get involved here
  • VinylPlus – This is the mother company of Recovinyl which was started in 2003 and has since recycled over 739,000 tonnes of PVC in 2018. Find out more about their service here or get in contact with their representatives.
    General Manager: Ingrid Verscueren verschueren@nullrecovinyl.com or UK Representative: Richard McKinlay rmckinlay@nullaxiongroup.co.uk.

How do I dispose of an old driving licence? 

drivers-licence-notlost-property

You have a driving licence that doesn’t belong to you and it’s reasonable to assume that the owner has replaced it during the time it’s been in your possession. You need to get rid of the driving licence appropriately as it is a piece of identification holding sensitive information. This isn’t common knowledge, but the best thing to do with Driving Licence is just to send them straight to the DVLA! 

Solution

Collect your driving licences together and post them back to the DVLA at this address:

DVLA
Swansea
SA99 1AB

Place them in a secure envelope, fill in the address details, stick on a stamp and take it down to the nearest Post Office. 

The DVLA dispose of them securely and a note is made on the individuals record that the old licence was found and returned. They won’t be notified of this, it’s just in order for information to be keep up to date.

How do I dispose of an oyster card?

oyster-card-notlost-lost-property

TfL do not want to receive old oyster cards as once they are ‘logically disabled’ they cannot be re-used. They state they do not recycle unused Oyster cards. 

Solution

Our suggestion is to follow the same directions as stated above to dispose of oyster cards the same way other plastic cards are. Collect them and send them on to a suitable recycle centre!

Think oyster cards should be recyclable? Sign this petition! 

Alternative approaches to plastic cards 

Alternatively, choose wisely where you get your company ID cards printed. Use a service that offers environmentally friendly bio-degradable cards. Try:

Photo Source (@madebyoomph)

Alternatively, for those who would prefer to get crafty than throw away these credit cards, turn your plastic card waste into: ice scrapers, a handy tool for DIY work, toys for children to play with or guitar picks.

Conclusion 

In conclusion, we have learnt that the vast majority of credit cards are made of PVC, a material that can be a headache to recycle. However, it can be done! Follow some of the pointers we’ve outlined and you’ll be well on your way disposing of credit cards, debit cards, oyster cards and driving licences sustainably and ethically.

Don’t let your lost property take over valuable staff time. Have you thought about using NotLost? Our simple online lost and found software enables organisations to modernise their lost property process, save valuable staff time and delight their consumers. Find out more about How it Works, as well as our Twitter and LinkedIn for our latest updates.

Missed our last blog post? Find it here – UK Festivals Review – July 2019 for an in-depth look at how our platform has assisted some of the UK’s biggest music festivals.