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How Do Hotels Deal With The Old Key Cards?

old key cards

Key cards were introduced in hotels to replace the keys one was given when they checked in. This technology replaced all the hardware involved in making new keys in case a guest would take the key home by mistake or lose it. Just like the metal keys, key cards are a lot safer for the guests, are quicker to replace, and are reusable.

What happens after a guest has checked out?

When a guest checks into the hotel, the front desk associate punches the room number into the computer system. A blank key card is placed on a device that encodes the key card with the booked room number, checkout date, and a random selection of numbers. The key card not only allows one to open their own door but also lets one into locked areas that are shared by all hotel guests. The encoded checkout date allows the card to stop working when you leave. The key card technology allows many guests to bypass the front desk and check out by accessing the hotel’s computer system through their guest room televisions. The process starts over with a new randomly selected code of numbers when a new guest checks in to your old room.

Are key cards reusable?

All key cards are encoded over again making them reusable. Even though they are inexpensive due to the quantity purchased, it’s environmentally sensitive to reuse the plastic key cards than to throw them away. After checking out, the key card expires shortly after this. You’ll have to get new key cards if you choose to extend your stay because the old ones won’t work.

Can hotel key cards be recycled?

Depending on the material used in manufacture, some key cards can be recycled.

Normally, plastic key cards cannot be recycled because the key cards are incorporated with a magnetic stripe or RFID chip /inlay inside, it’s difficult to remove the magnetic stripe or RFID inlay from the card, and if not, these stuffs will damage the recycling equipment.

Laminated paper key cards are difficult to recycle as the paper can’t be separated from the laminated plastic. Wooden key cards are the easiest to recycle as long as the wood used in the manufacturing process has not been chemically treated, however, wooden key cards with RFID inlay inside (RFID wooden key cards) cannot be recycled either because there are RFID inlay inside the cards and it’s difficult to peel it off.

Environmental impact of abandoned key cards

Abandoned key cards have negatively affected the environment. Non-biodegradable and non-recyclable plastic key cards have increased the environmental carbon footprint, lead to severe health problems, polluted the land, water, and air. These key cards when disposed of, fill up the landfill and take hundreds of years to decompose. RFID abandoned key cards demonstrate developmental damage to wildlife and plants when exposed to different levels of radio waves.


Due to the additives added in the manufacturing process of some key cards, recycling companies find it difficult to recycle the key cards once they become old and unpresentable. Key cards don’t benefit the same protection as credit cards because they are reused and are exposed to a magnet or electromagnetic radiation that kills the key code.


BioPaper key card is the 1st plastic-like paper card. It’s made from naturally occurring sources and won’t pollute the environment like plastic key cards. Click here to learn more.

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