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Recycling Credit Cards

You may recall that New Hampshire, when the Republicans took over the majority in 2012, became one state that legalized the carrying of guns on that state’s House floor. It was controversial and met with heated debates. The Republicans, traditionally conservative and big 2nd Amendment supporters, butted heads with Democrats, who are often the ones insisting gun control laws should be tightened. Then, before 2012 was up, the Democrats once again took over the majority and their first order of business was to ban guns from both the state’s House as well as the gallery.

Immediately, the state’s pubs cried foul and said a gun free zone would leave them wide open for becoming sitting ducks. One representative, Dan Dumaine, said that a holstered gun isn’t a deadly weapon, “but anything can be used as a deadly weapon. A credit card can be used to cut somebody’s throat”. Well, we’re not entirely sure about that statement and since we doubt we’d get any of our staff members to agree to become a test subject, we figured we’d just err on the side of caution and say it’s not likely a credit card could actually be used as a deadly weapon.

But, for those out there who appreciate a bit of multi-purposing, we did look around to see just how many other uses those expired credit cards, used gift cards and even hotel keys actually have. You might be surprised at how many folks think the same thing and who have come up with quite a few creative re-purposing ideas. Take a look –

Re Credit

Using an old credit card as a cable organizer is genius! Admittedly, when this option jumped out at us, we weren’t sure how it worked, but it’s actually quite simple. Using a hole punch and scissors is all it takes. Cut the card about an inch in, punch at hole at where the cut stops and slide the cord in. You can realistically make six of these cuts for six cords and it works great on computers, printers and other gadgets or behind your entertainment center.

Also, the same theory could be used with keeping up with spare keys. One reader told us she glued a magnet onto one side of the credit card, then punched five holes along the bottom of the unused card. She then looped a paper clip through both random keys and the holes in the credit card. She said she stuck it to the side of the fridge no one ever sees and always knows where the keys are to the storage shed and her husband’s tool boxes.

Another brilliant use we came across was a guitar pick. You’ll want to trace it out on the card and then carefully cut it to the proper size, but you can get three or four picks from one no longer used card.

And for all of you do-it-yourself folks, a plastic credit card makes a fine straight edge for painting. It’s not too big and not too small. Same thing goes for caulking, too. Clean up those lines with a sharp, crisp straight line courtesy of an old used gift or credit card.

Crafts for Kids

You can even pull the little ones in on the upcycling. Cut the credit cards, gift cards or key cards into small squares and then let them glue them onto phone frames for a colorful way to dress up their photos.

Help the little ones by cutting small notches into the old cards and allow them to wrap hair ribbons or yarn as a way to keep their arts and crafts areas neat.


These are just a few uses for around the house, but there are other ways you can recycle those plastic cards. You can actually mail those old cards to a company that recycles them. Did you know that more than 75 million pounds of the PVC material that these cards are made of are tossed each year? Most credit cards are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is a petroleum-based plastic and is still, after all these years, non-recyclable. There’s another alternative, poly lactic acid (PLA) and cards made from this material will biodegrade in 82 days, but not in the landfill. They are made from corn starch and as you might expect, they’re more expensive to make, which isn’t an option many card makers want to consider.

Then, there are those retailers who are doing their part, as well. In July 2007, Target opted for using bioplastic gift cards made with a corn-based material called Mirel, made by Metabolix. This substance, which, by the way, 1,600 Target locations began using for cards less than two years ago, will easily biodegrade in a regular compost bin. Other retailers, including REI, Borders, and Wal-Mart, also use biodegradable corn-based gift cards. You might also ask retailers if they accept old gift cards, too. They might and even if they don’t now, they could in the future.

Earthworks System has found a way to ensure they don’t end up in landfills. Now, if you’re worried about those numbers landing in the wrong hands, you can cut them up yourself, shred them or even remove the credit card number (or part of it) with a piece of sandpaper if that makes you more comfortable. You might also run a strong magnet over the magnetic strip on the back of the card to delete all of that information. If you travel a lot or receive a lot of gift cards, you can save all those cards and send them in a couple times a year or you can send one or two at a time – there are no minimum or maximum numbers the company will accept. You can easily mail them to the company’s Ohio headquarters:

Mail plastic cards to:

Earthworks c/o Halprin Ind.
25840 Miles Rd
Bedford, OH 44146

There’s another great com pany, Plastic Pennies, that allows you to send in those gift cards you no longer use. If there’s a few dollarsor a few pennies left on the card itself, the company pools it all together and donates it to charity. It’s a fine way to give back while keeping our environment safe too. You can learn more about this company by visiting Their addresses are listed on the site, as well.

Scrub and Toss

Finally, you can always “scrub” those old cards and trash them. You should know, though, we don’t recommend doing that. If, however, you’re determined to do it that way, you should at a minimum put that heavy magnet to good use. Run it across the back of your magnetic strip several times. If there’s a chip in the card, cut it out, take a hammer to it or otherwise destroy it and before you toss those cards into the trash, you should shred them first. You might even consider tossing them into several different trash bags, too. For all that work, though, you could expend just as much energy and consider recycling them.

Of course, all of these ideas are far better than Representative Dumaine’s insistence that a credit card could be used to cut someone’s throat and we certainly don’t advocate you trying that out. The fact that you can actually put those expired credit cards to good us is a fine alternative.

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