Gift cards go green
What do you buy for someone who has everything? You can’t go wrong with a gift card – a small, portable token that may be exchanged for anything from tangible goods to your favourite music or an unforgettable experience.
Traditionally, a gift card has tended to come in the form of a piece of plastic the size of a credit card. However, Jonas Adler, business development director for Iggesund Paperboard, says that a card made of paperboard can be equally handy and is far more sustainable than the polyvinyl chloride (pvc) product.
“According to a study commissioned by MasterCard, a pvc card weighs five grams, but producing it actually generates 21 grams of carbon emissions,” he says. “Meanwhile, the equivalent paperboard product weighs 2.6 grams and produces only 0.25 grams of emissions.”
There are many different application areas for cards – from credit cards to gift cards, loyalty cards and key cards, to name just a few. While credit cards are subject to a great deal of wear and tear and therefore require a more durable material, paperboard is ideal for cards that are used only a few times.
“It’s better for printing, has a more pleasant feel and reflects colour better than PVC.”
“Moreover, it allows you to make a more visually appealing product,” Adler says. “It’s better for printing, has a more pleasant feel and reflects colour better than pvc.”
Estimates from the United States suggest that each of its inhabitants is issued about five new cards every year. In Europe, this would equate to the production of 2.5 billion cards annually, generating 52,500 tonnes of fossil carbon dioxide emissions.
In the United States, the debate about these emissions has resulted in growing demand for gift cards made of paperboard – a trend that has also started making its way to Europe.
One U.S. company that is blazing the trail in this area is North America’s leading producer of paper cards, pbm Graphics. pbm currently produces gift cards made of Iggesund board for companies such as Lego, Home Depot and the Bojangles restaurant chain. According to Jim Moriarty, director of loyalty and sustainability solutions for pbm’s Ecko Card brand, 2015 looks set to be a big year for paperboard cards.
“The transition has already begun, and I think this year will be a tipping point, with more and more brands moving over to paper,” he says. Moriarty says there are two principal reasons for the growing popularity of paperboard products in the gift card market.
“The high-quality products made by companies such as Iggesund didn’t exist a few years ago,” he says. “For customers to transition, we need to get them comfortable with the idea that a paperboard product really can work as well as a plastic one.
“In addition, more and more companies are going green these days. As a society, we can no longer justify single-use plastic products, and the truth is that the majority of gift cards are used only once, so why not make them sustainable?”
TEXT ISABELLE KLIGER