Visa On How To Make Plastic Cards Sustainable

Visa Postpones Rollout Of New Fee Structure

Improving the world — and the environment — one (card present) transaction at a time.

To that end, Visa said Tuesday (June 16) that it has joined with CPI Card Group to launch a card for Visa cardholders composed of up to 98 percent “upcycled” plastic.

The Earthwise High Content Card seeks to help eliminate plastic waste.

Drilling down into the compositional details, the upcycled, post-industrial plastic is known as rPETG.

In an interview with Karen Webster, Douglas Sabo, global head of corporate responsibility and sustainability for the payments giant, said the cards reduce first-use plastic, are EMV compliant and can handle contactless payments.

Of the material itself, he pointed out that “this is not ‘scrapped’ [plastic]. There are many approaches to sustainable cards — and some approaches use scraps left over from the card manufacturing process.”

By way of contrast, the upcycle approach uses plastics that have come from other, existing materials and packaging, using, for example, industrial products diverted from landfills.

At a high level, Sabo told Webster, the upcycled card “is an indication of internal and increasingly external collaboration at Visa. We are really focused on what roles we can play to drive an inclusive and sustainable future.”

As the company strives to broaden financial inclusion, he said, it’s become important to also tamp down negative environmental impacts that come from getting more cards into individuals’ hands.

The Earthwise card announcement follows a CPI survey that shows that 73 percent of respondents want their financial institutions (FIs) to be environment conscious, while 57 percent said they would be interested in a new card made with recycled materials.

CPI, for its part, has worked on other environmentally friendly cards in the past, including Second Wave cards, which are made from recovered, ocean bound plastic.

It’s imperative, he said, to integrate sustainability into the (eventual) economic rebound as it takes shape. There are a range of new, sustainable and “green” options coming to the forefront of various recovery packages tied to transportation, infrastructure and energy.

“We and others in the space are really doubling down on this topic and encouraging governments and other industries to really look at this as an opportunity to make sustainability part of the economic recovery," Sabo told Webster.

He noted that in recent years there has been increasing attention on the use of plastics, particularly single-use plastics — and how using/disposing of plastic items impacts landfills and oceans.

Payment cards are far from single use; they are designed to be durable and used across a span of years. But as Sabo said with a nod to the fact that Visa neither manufactures or issues cards, “We certainly have this physical item associated with our brand.”

The Issuer Side Of The (Sustainable) Equation

In building a card that features EMV technology while addressing sustainability concerns, said Sabo, the joint efforts between Visa and CPI focus on the cards’ “lifecycle” as it is made available to several thousand FI issuers — from materials to manufacturing to distribution to lifespan.

Asked about how issuers might position the Earthwise cards to end users, Sabo said initial reaction from the issuing side of the equation has been positive.

He added that the “environmental attribute” of the card may spur consumers to embrace them and use them more often than they do other plastic payment cards.

As he told Webster: “Consumers and financial institutions are at various points in their journey on sustainability. There are certainly segments of consumers who will speak out and make this card top of wallet as a way of demonstrating their values.”



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.