We've discussed greener credit cards in the past at TreeHugger. Major credit card companies offer cards that provide donations to nonprofit organizations whose logo or image is featured on the card. But that's not what we're talking about here at all. Discover is boasting a new "biodegradable" credit card made from biodegradable PVC. But can PVC really degrade and what is it anyway?Discover has introduced its first biodegradable credit card, which will supposedly break down when exposed to landfill conditions. According to Discover, the green credit card is made of biodegradable PVC, 99 percent of which can be absorbed back into the environment given the right conditions. Discover contends that, with exposure to soil, water, compost, and other microorganisms, the card will degrade completely within nine months to 5 years. Discover also claims that the card leaves no toxic residue when it degrades. The company is not clear, however, on what conditions must exist to have the card totally degrade or how often these conditions exist.
PVC in Biodegradable Credit Cards?
But how can PVC be biodegradable? Or does it just degrade to microscopic pieces and never fully break down? Under what 'conditions' would it truly degrade and how would the average consumer come across these conditions? After all, one of the main reasons why PVC presented such a problem is because of its inability to degrade, even in a landfill setting. While it's unclear whether Discover is using BIOflex's biodegradable PVC technology, according to an article Green Living Tips, John Sulano of Biotech Products has commented that the biodegradability of BIOflex has been tested successfully under the "standard test method for determining anaerobic biodegradation of plastic materials under accelerated landfill conditions." We've seen this biodegradable PVC before on TreeHugger when April wrote about in billboards last month. It's made of PVC resin, limestone, plasticizer, and 20 percent petroleum. BIOflex also makes claims that the materials are all non toxic. This is, however, pretty new technology so I presume we'll know more later on about its true toxicity.
But all this has little to do with the overarching issue that makes credit cards an eco-demon. Americans continue to fall victim to these enticing pieces of plastic (whether biodegradable or not). In turn, they contribute to our nation's vast over consumption. According to Transunion, a credit and information management company, the total outstanding balance of bank-issued credit cards per consumer was $5,710 in December 2008. This could be a bit inflated for the holiday season however.
Biodegradable Credit Card or No Credit Card?
While I certainly applaud the pursuit of biodegradable credit cards, sticking to a simple life and staying away from unnecessary debt is the best way to keep stress low on both you and the environment. That's why I keep the majority of my credit cards in a drawer under a pile of socks, hopefully never to see the light of day again.