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7 Eco-friendly Substitutes for Plastic Cards

substitute of plastic cards

Plastic cards have a wide range of applications and they have become a significant part of our ecosystem. Major industries such as transportation, hospitality, factories, supermarkets, water-parks, and enterprises are all using plastic cards for various purposes.

However, the billions of cards we print every year are not environmentally friendly. This is a huge deal breaker. Most of these cards end up in the bin within a week. As we all know, this is not good at all for the environment. This pops the million-dollar question; are there eco-friendly materials to replace plastic cards?

Read on to find out.

7 Eco-friendly Alternatives for Plastic Cards

1. PLA- Polylactide Resin

PLA cards are thermoplastic cards. They are made by the polymerization of lactic acid. This is sometimes referred to as lactide. PLA liquidates at a melting point of 150 to 160 degrees Celsius.

Since the lactic acid used to design the cards is derived from plants such as corn husks among others, they have less carbon dioxide emission to the environment. This material guarantees 100% reliability. On the flipside, PLA can sometimes be less ethically correct.


  • It is thermoplastic.
  • Liquidates at 150-160 degrees Celsius.
  • Produced through bacterial fermentation.


  • Made from renewable raw materials.
  • Reduced carbon footprints and toxic fumes.
  • It is compostable.
  • Degrades to non-toxic acid.


  • More expensive.
  • 1st generation uses food crops which is ethically incorrect.
  • Requires intensive agricultural practices.
  • Cannot be recycled with other plastics.
  • Will become crisp after using it for a while.

2. Paper

Most companies are switching to greener versions of paper cards. These are mill paper with no carbon footprints. As it is, they have the least environmental impact. But this is not to say that all papers are environmentally friendly. On the contrary, we only have a few sustainable. This includes upcycled and recycled.

If you are an ecosystem-conscious person, always go for papers labeled “100% post-consumer recycled content.” A processed chlorine-free label is also a safer option. The good part of it is the paper can easily be recycled. On the flip side, its degradation tends to slow.


  • No PVC thus highly biodegradable.
  • Can be personalized with codes, names, and images.
  • Special finishing is possible.


  • Excellent durability.
  • Lightweight but long-lasting.
  • Recyclable and sustainable.
  • Easy to print and design.


  • Degradation slows.
  • Moisture damage.
  • Too much energy during production.
  • High logistic footprint (transportation).
  • Global deforestation.
  • Not waterproof so it’s not durable.

3. Wood

This is a high-class alternative to conventional plastic cards. There is no limit to how you can use this material in place of plastic. From barcode cards to chip cards, you are going green. The wooden/cardboard cards have a shelf life of up to one year all depending on how it is best handled.

Wooden cards have been verified as more sustainable and efficient. According to environmental research firms, wooden cards can reduce up to 50% carbon footprint. The best part of it is, it incorporates all the features in the typical plastic cards.


  • Made from elastic and stiff veneer.
  • Can be recovered to produce bioenergy.
  • Green alternative to plastic.


  • Sustainable green cards.
  • Reduced carbon footprint.
  • Produced with 30% less energy.
  • Cost-effective and highly durable.
  • Bioenergy and compostable material.


  • High cost.
  • Leads to deforestation.
  • Strict on the storage environment.
  • Not waterproof.
  • RFID wooden cards are not 100% eco-friendly because the core is made of PVC.


Otherwise known as Polyethylene terephthalate glycol, this product is gaining more fans as compared to others. It is derived from polyester and it is one of the sustainable environmentally friendly options for plastic cards. Out of it, you can design efficient business cards, gifts, and even phone cards.

This highly innovative card has widely been adopted by plastic retailers. Perhaps it is because of its PVC-like characteristics. It is both eco-friendly and can make for excellent recycled cards. It gives tailor-made options to suit your needs.


  • Environmentally friendly option.
  • Co-extrusion processing.
  • Derived from polyester.
  • 100% recyclable.
  • Biodegradable with non-toxic gases.


  • Produce non-toxic gas.
  • Biodegradable.
  • Recyclable.
  • Offers innovative specifications.
  • Excellent flex test.
  • High mechanical strength.


  • Carbon emission when printing.
  • Hard and rigid.
  • High cost.

5. ABS

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is 100% recyclable. It is manufactured from recycled. Compared to traditional PVC, this material is highly durable and sustainable. It is also efficient and can be used for different card purposes.

Its construction is exactly the same as with the standard PVC card. It adopts the same quality printing and personalization process. Besides, this material is mostly compatible with custom printed products.


  • It is a recycled plastic compound.
  • Produced through the emulsion and continuous mass technique.
  • Opaque ivory color in a natural state.
  • Higher melting point.
  • Longer lifespan.


  • Very sturdy and hard.
  • Harmless and non-carcinogenic.
  • Resistant to corrosive chemicals.
  • High impact strength.


  • Poor UV resistance.
  • High friction and wear.
  • High smoke emission.
  • Poor solvent/fatigue resistance.

6. BioPVC

This works just like the conventional plastic ID card. It is a quality PVC plastic card that can be used on a typical card printer. It is biodegradable and it can take 2-3 years to decompose in the landfills.

BioPVC is a composition of additives for its physical and molecular structure. This helps to create a highly efficient and flexible material for sustainable end products. Besides, the material is also based on crude oil and rock salt. But this choice is perfectly non-toxic.


  • Can be reliably recycled.
  • Eco-friendly material.
  • Features crude oil and rock salt.
  • Non-toxic in the compostable environment.
  • Has additives for physical and molecular structure.


  • Highly reliable and flexible.
  • Highly durable and recyclable.
  • Non-toxic.
  • Do not release carbon or methane.
  • Break down completely as compost.


  • Look and feel like regular plastic cards.
  • Will turn yellow as time passed by.

7. BioPaper

This woodless material performs just like the standard PVC. Unlike the other paper materials, BioPaper stands out as a unique product in every aspect. In as much as it is paper, it is not made from wood like all the other papers available. This makes it one of the best eco-friendly cards because it does not infringe on the afforestation.

This waterproof material does not produce wastewater, gas, or any harmful emission to the environment. This product does not leave any trail of toxins on the environment. Especially during its production. Besides, this material naturally degrades without emitting any harmful waste.


  • It is woodless.
  • No environmental pollution.
  • Its application is similar to PVC.
  • More eco-friendly than traditional paper cards.


  • No wastewater, harmful gas, or emissions.
  • Saves trees because it is woodless.
  • Waterproof and tear-resistant.
  • Durable and does not turn yellow with time.
  • Pollution-free.


  • Avoid exposure to direct sunlight because it will expedite the degradation.
  • Cannot be used outdoors.

In Conclusion

Eco-friendly materials should be a priority for every one of us. After analyzing the mainstream eco-friendly materials that can be used to replace plastic cards, you should now be able to pick what works the best for you. We do not only affect the environment; it affects us too. We should therefore act and make our contribution to protecting our planet.

If you are still not sure which material suits you the most, send a message to us, we will make a proposal for you according to your situation.

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