Financial recycling: MasterCard’s plan to recover millions of cards around the world

Financial recycling it is urgently necessary: t is estimated that the industry produces around 600 million plastic cards a year, each with a useful life of around five years

Payment company Mastercard launched a global project to recycle credit and debit cards on Wednesday as part of a plan to prevent billions of cards in circulation in the financial industry from ending up in landfills, oceans and other natural spaces.

Initially partnering with British lender HSBC Holdings Plc on eight branches in Britain, Mastercard said banks around the world, some of which have launched local initiatives, could join the program and help build economies of scale.

“We are inviting all card issuers around the world to partner with us, no matter what region they are in, and offer card recycling to their customers,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence at Mastercard Inc.

Under the plan, Mastercard will provide shredders to HSBC, each of which can hold 10,000 cards, equivalent to 50kg of plastic. Once full, it will be transferred to a plastic recycling facility.

More about financial recycling

Financial details about the plan were not disclosed. The pilot project, which will run for an initial six months, will allow customers to recycle any plastic card, including those of rivals.

“This recycling pilot will give us a very important perspective and inform our longer-term plans,” said José Carvalho, head of wealth and personal banking at HSBC UK.

Currently, Mastercard said it has about 3.1 billion cards in circulation. Each year, it is estimated that the industry produces around 600 million cards, each with a useful life of around five years.

The Nilson Report, which analyzes the industry, put total cards in circulation at nearly 26 billion in 2022 and forecast that it could rise to 28.4 billion by 2027.

The dizzying use of plastic has created one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges, with plastic waste buried in landfills or polluting rivers and oceans.

The plastic manufacturing process is also a major source of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

*Reporting by Simon Jessop; Additional reporting by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes; Edited by Jonathan Oatis of Reuters