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Payment cards go beyond plastic

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Jarmo Rouhiainen

Head of Card Production and Personalisation

Tietoevry’s card-issuer customers are increasingly choosing materials other than virgin plastic for the payment cards they source from us.

Each year Tietoevry delivers approximately 20 million payment cards. In 2020, just four of our card-issuer customers used sustainable materials for the body of the cards. A year later, and an additional 22 of our issuer customers have committed to launching payment cards based on sustainable materials.

We expect this trend to continue, which means that within two years more than 50% of the cards we provide in the Nordic countries will be made from sustainable materials.

“Cards are traditionally made from five different layers of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a material derived from oil. Sustainable cards replace some or all of these layers with a material other than virgin PVC,” says Jarmo Rouhiainen, Head of Card Production and Personalization at Tietoevry.

“There are essentially two approaches. The first is to use recycled plastic materials such as rPVC or rPET. The other is to use a completely biodegradable material such as polylactic acid, or PLA, which is made from corn starch. Tietoevry is working with both approaches – it just depends on the customer’s preferences,” says Rouhiainen.

Towards the end of 2021, Tietoevry announced an agreement with the Savings Bank group in Finland that would allow the bank to offer its customers' payment cards made from plastic collected from oceans and coastal regions. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. The plastic for the Savings Bank cards is collected in countries without adequate recycling facilities.

“The growing trend towards using materials other than virgin plastic for cards is a win-win for sustainability on the one hand, and market differentiation for our issuing customers on the other,” says Rouhiainen.

“Even though people increasingly use their phones to make payments, the number of physical cards out in the market is growing each year. A payment card is a very strong brand token that a customer sees and uses often, which is why many banks and fin-techs look at cards as a way to stand out. Sustainable materials provide more options for this differentiation while doing good for the environment.”

Tietoevry has also kicked off a pilot project with Norwegian banking-alliance Sparebank 1 to assess the viability of recycling expired payment cards. When customers receive a new card, they also receive a return envelope and instructions to send back the old card. These are then sent to a partner for recycling. The overall CO2 impact of the exercise is being assessed before a potential wider rollout.

We are also helping our issuing customers to minimize the environmental impact of cards in other ways, including ordering them in larger batches from local factories to make deliveries more sustainable.

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Read more about our sustainability work here!

Or are you interested in knowing how we can serve our customers in the financial sector? Check out Tietoevry Banking's offering here.

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