eGift Cards

Are gift cards recyclable?

Happy family with two children walking in a forest

We’re all being told to reduce how much single use plastic we use if we want to save the planet, so, are gift cards really a sustainable choice? Well, yes, they are in certain circumstances. We’ve pulled together a guide to recycling gift cards and how you can buy and use them more sustainably, from egift cards that are 100% digital to gift cards you can throw in your composter.

Here’s how to keep sending gift cards and still do your bit for the environment:

Can you recycle gift cards?

Most physical gift cards are made from PVC, which can be recycled but not usually through your household recycling service. You can send used gift cards in the mail to a specialist recycler to dispose of them in a more environmentally friendly way. You can also check whether your local store has a gift card drop off point (they sometimes collect them to send to recyclers in batches) as this is much more eco-friendly than sending one gift card through the mail.

Some brands are also starting to use more sustainable materials for gift cards, like biodegradable paper or wood, which can go in your curbside recycling or your garden composter, so if you’re buying a gift card, check what it’s made of when you’re buying it.

You can also buy egift cards which are completely digital – meaning there’s no waste at all. If you need to, you can print an egift card at home and recycle the paper copy once you’re done with it.

How to recycle gift cards

While you can’t put PVC gift cards in your curbside recycling, there are lots of easy ways to dispose of them sustainably:

1. Recycle gift cards in the store you bought them from

Many big-name retailers have gift card collection points in store for used plastic gift cards, so make sure to ask when you’re buying one.

2. Drop them off at a local collection point

Some stores offer collection points for recycling gift cards from any brand or retailer, not just their own, so ask someone next time you’re at the store.

3. Return them in the mail

If you don’t have a gift card recycling point near you, you can send them to a mail-in program like Earthworks, which recycles old gift cards into new ones. All you have to pay is the price of postage.

4. Buy an egift card

The easiest way to keep your gift card use green is to buy a digital gift card. That way there’s no physical gift card to dispose of at all. If you need to, you can print your egift card at home and pop the paper copy in your recycle bin when you’re done.

Can I recycle gift boxes and bags?

Gift boxes can be recycled via your usual card and paper recycling method, though additions like glitter can mean it’s a no-no. Gift bags can be trickier, though there are often drop-off locations that will take them. Or you could save them and give them a new lease of life by using them again.

Can I recycle gift wrap?

Simple paper gift wrap can be recycled, though foil or glittery versions can’t. If you’re putting gift wrap in your household recycling box, make sure you remove any sticky tape first.

What can you do with old gift cards?

Some plastic gift cards can be reloaded, so check with the issuer before you dispose of them. If they’re finished with and you don’t want to recycle them, you could keep one as an emergency ice scraper or chop them up to use in scrapbooking and other crafts. If you’ve printed a digital gift card, you can simply put it in your home recycling bin when you’re done with it. Or keep it purely digital and reduce your gift card waste altogether.

Green gift cards

These days, you don’t have to send a physical gift card to treat someone – many brands issue digital gift cards which can be sent by email, for use online or in a physical store or restaurant.

Not only are they eco-friendly, you can buy one in minutes and send it immediately with no trips to the post office, and without having to check their mailing address. Perfect if you’re buying for someone who cares about sustainability, or if you’ve left buying a gift card until the last minute. For more ideas on sustainable gifting, check out our best sustainability gifts.

The greenest gift cards though are egift cards. You can send these directly to your recipients email address and they need never have a physical copy to use it – which means no unnecessary waste. If you do print them off, do so on standard paper which you can recycle at home once you’re done.

While buying gift cards can mean purchasing more plastic, there are ways to reduce the impact they have on the planet. Just make sure you do your research before you buy!

Want to swap a physical gift card for an egift card? Check out the Kroger Family of Stores’ wide range of egift cards, available to buy online in minutes.