Biodegradable PVC?
Biodegradable PVC?


Plastic card maker CPI Card Group Inc. is on board the sustainability bandwagon with a line of biodegradable PVC cards using a material that it calls bioPVC. U.S. Bank announced yesterday that it has started offering gas cards made of the material to customers in the company's Fleet Systems Inc. program.

A news release from U.S. Bank quotes Michael Oleniczek, senior vice president, saying: "Our clients are increasingly concerned about selecting products and services that have less impact on the environment. We expect these cards to be extremely popular."

CPI has produced millions of bioPVC cards. The cards are made of 99 percent PVC, and biodegrades in nine months to five years in soil, water, compost, or wherever microorganisms are present. CPI Card Group VP of sales Bob Clarke added: "The finished card performs equal to cards manufactured on regular PVC as no biodegradation takes place unless the product is in a fertile environment such as compost." CPI Card Group also offers cards made of NatureWorks PLA, as well as cards made with recycled content ranging from 25-100 percent.

I'm curious about how these cards made of alternative materials will catch on. On one hand, I recognize that credit card recycling programs have limited appeal -- the volumes would be too small to handle, and consumers would never risk sending old cards to be recycled. So the idea of having a card that won't be around for decades, if not centuries, must appeal to some consumers.

On the other hand, how many people are going to send cards to composting facilities? If you cut them up and put them in the trash, are they really going to biodegrade if they end up in a landfill? If you're wondering, the volume of plastic cards manufactured each year is pretty significant. According to the International Card Manufacturers Association, 19.2 billion cards were made in 2007, which is up 12 percent over 2006. North America is the largest card unit market, with more than 9.1 billion cards manufactured in 2007.