Amex to use recycled plastic in updated Green Card

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In response to rising concern about the environment, American Express has redesigned its classic Green Card to contain recycled plastic gathered from the ocean.

Amex is working on the initiative with Parley for the Oceans, a nonprofit environmental organization that also collaborates with athletic shoe manufacturers to use recycled plastic materials in products to reduce plastic ocean debris, Amex said in a Monday press release.

With the announcement about new cards, Amex also said next year it’s introducing a new program enabling consumers to recycle old Amex credit cards.

The program is part of broad organizational moves to address environmental responsibility Amex announced last year. Amex will donate nearly $2 million in grants for educational programming and efforts to clean up oceans and rivers, according to the release.

Last week CPI Card Group announced it’s producing a new line of cards for issuers that contains recycled plastic gathered near oceans and rivers.

Companies focused on consumer products that eschew plastic see little value in using recycled plastic for payment cards.

“When it comes to plastic bank cards, there’s no such thing as ‘environmentally friendly' because of the chip and magnetic stripe embedded in billions of cards,” said Matt Payne, managing director of U.K.-based Made by Oomph, which this year rolled out hotel keys made from wood pulp, to reduce the use of plastic in the hospitality industry.

Because of security concerns, it’s unlikely banks can make effective cards from 100% recycled plastic or that today’s EMV-compatible cards will be easy to fully recycle, Payne said.

“The best option would be to develop a card made of some natural material so that when ends up in a landfill, it will naturally degrade,” he said, noting that Oomph isn’t working on any such cards yet for the financial industry.

Payne sees potential one day for a new type of card that could act as a bridge to the future when most payments likely will originate with digital devices.

“When the banking sector moves away from dual-interface cards to pure RFID cards, then we could produce a card from wood fiber,” he said. In the long run, Payne envisions NFC-enabled wearables and smartphones largely displacing plastic cards.

Amex said its recycled-plastic Green cards, manufactured by Gemalto, will contain 70% reclaimed plastic when they roll out later this year.

Beginning next year, Amex consumers may call a number on the back of their card to request a return envelope to mail expired or malfunctioning cards back to Amex for recycling.

Amex is also supporting a social media campaign to encourage plastic recycling. Between Sept. 16 and Sept. 23, consumers can go to the @AmericanExpress or Instagram and for each comment—or tagged friend—using the #BackOurOceans hashtag, Amex will partner with Parley to remove up to 1 million pounds of plastic, Amex said in the release.

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