Consumers, for some time now, have been looking at their consumption of plastic. Single-use plastic shopping bags were banned in New Zealand during July 2019 and consumers are shifting their focus to other sources of plastic waste within retail. Electronic gift card programme company eCard Solutions is taking the search for sustainability further with a new recyclable cardboard gift card.
Anna Fulljames, managing director of eCard Solutions says that in a retail environment where single-use plastics are on the way out, a plastic gift card that may only be used a few times “just doesn’t make sense anymore”.
“When we spoke to the customer, we felt that a more sustainable option resonated with what they were trying to do with their business.”
However, finding a suitable solution wasn’t easy. Moving away from plastic meant identifying a new material.
Fulljames says many so-called sustainable alternatives to plastic cards are not as environmentally friendly as they appear. Most gift cards use some sort of lamination product, so even if they’re recycled or made from “trendy, on-target” materials such as corn, they’re not recyclable. Recycled plastic is a re-used product but it’s not itself re-usable.
Wooden gift cards, at this time, are only manufactured overseas and there are potential difficulties importing and printing on this sort of product – they also appear to have limited appeal to the consumer.
eCard Solutions has been providing their customers plastic cards for their gift card and loyalty programs for nearly 15 years.
“As a company, we spent a lot of time looking around the world for suitable alternatives and could find nothing that was cost-effective, attractive and recyclable. In the end, we partnered with a local company to develop a product that would meet our requirements”.
The new cardboard cards are in production now and eCard Solutions has been supplying them to select customers for a year or so with extremely positive feedback.
In the future, Fulljames would love to shift eCard Solutions’ whole production over to recyclable cards, but it’s about demand.
“That’s an investment we’d like to make as demand grows.”
The price point is “not material” to that of plastic, and Fulljames says the end user experience is so similar that customers won’t notice any difference.
“It’s definitely not plastic but it feels really nice in the hand and it offers so many more design and printing options.”
There’s no good reason not to request the new recyclable cards for your next run, Fulljames confirms.
“You can’t ignore sustainability in any business, and we’d love to help.”
The technology behind Envirocards
eCard Solutions and the manufacturer discovered that, while plenty of retail clients are looking for more environmentally friendly products, there was a shortage of specific machinery and information dedicated to making these products on the production side.
“We use the analogy, it’s a bit like trying to make a paper plate that will go through the dishwasher. By the time you’ve done all the things you’ve got to do to it, it’s no longer a paper plate.”
Gift cards, for example, are used 2.2 times on average, Fulljames says, but their design is based on credit cards, which are meant to be used thousands of times: “They’re completely overengineered.”
Unfortunately, Fulljames says, the end user has come to expect a credit-card-style gift card.
“The end user doesn’t like a thin card. They want it to be as much like a credit card as possible.”
To address their preferences, Envirocards have been designed to be the same size and thickness as credit cards. They can manage around 100 uses, so they’re still sturdy.
“For what your average user wants from a gift card, it’s perfect,” says Fulljames.
The existing card manufacturing machinery is set up to print on plastic. This has resulted in some technical challenges as the machinery’s rollers are made to push credit cards along, not the Envirocards’ matte cardboard. They have solved this problem by setting up a parallel line of adapted machines alongside their main line of plastic cards.
“Collectively we are hoping to morph the industry from plastic to cardboard.”
To find out more about eCard Solutions, visit www.ecardsolutions.co.nz or phone 0508 4ECARD.