In 2012, the industry produced 33 billion cards, according to the International Card Manufacturers Association. The newspaper says most of those cards contained polyvinyl chloride, a plastic that is harmful to the environment and slow to decompose.
As a more sustainable alternative, Whole Foods replaced its plastic gift cards with paper ones in 2011 and last year launched a gift card made with wood from sustainably managed forests. The cards, made by Colorado-based Sustainable Cards, are compostable and require 30 percent less energy to produce than plastic cards.
However, higher costs of alternative materials remains a challenge to widespread implementation, the newspaper reports.
For example, in 2007, Target started selling cards made out of a biodegradable material produced by Metabolix but then stopped because of the high price of production.
Metabolix and other companies are exploring whether plants can be genetically engineered to make polymers for producing bioplastics in a way that’s cheaper than oil-based plastics, according to an August report in the Christian Science Monitor.
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