Ecological Concerns in Europe Spawn New Breed of Clean Cards
Block, Valerie, American Banker
Money may not grow on trees, but Sweden's Ecocard, a biodegradable payment card made of wood, could make shopping a greener experience.
Invented for Telia, the Swedish phone carrier, as an alternative to plastic phone cards, the wooden cards are taking root with other issuers, said Mats Lijemark, one of five Ecocard partners.
Swedish consumers are concerned about using cards made with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a chlorine-based compound that releases dioxin when incinerated. Dioxin is considered toxic to animals and humans, causing damage to reproductive systems.
Some European countries intend to ban the pervasive plastic. Germany requires issuers to recycle all plastic cards.
In response to the environmental concerns in Sweden, Telia planned to distribute 3,000 wooden cards at a sporting event, but axed the test in the final hour.
Gunnar Benedikt, Telia's manager of telephone cards, explained that the birch cards were not durable. "If you take plastic, you can torture it, but wooden cards will break quite easily."
Telia has opted to issue chlorine-free plastic cards instead. Cards made of ABS, a plastic familiar to U.S. consumers in the form of Legos - the building toy - will be available by January. PETG, a polyester used to make bottles for Coca-Cola and other beverages, is another plastic possibility. Telia has a recycling program for the nondegradable items, but "because they (the cards) are collectibles, it's hard to get them back," said Mr. Benedikt.
Gieseke & Devrient may win a contract to produce the new cards. The German manufacturer produces ABS cards and is promoting its new "ecard," made of PETG.
Schlumberger, the French card maker currently producing Telia's PVC phone cards "will look into the possibility of moving over to better materials," Mr. Benedikt said.
He said the new cards would cost slightly more, but "we have a very strong opinion against PVC in Sweden. …