You’re probably sporting a few of them right now in your wallet. Or they’re stacked inside a random kitchen drawer. Flat and featherweight, these plastic rectangles pile up. You use them for shopping. For banking. Gifts. Earning rewards points. You may even receive blank versions in your junk mail.
When no longer needed, credit cards, gift cards, and other plastic cards often pose a disposing dilemma. They usually don’t belong in mixed recycling. And if you’re protecting your personal information — and the planet — you probably won’t want to toss them in the trash.
So, instead of retiring them to that drawer in the kitchen, put them to work. To spark your imagination, we’re highlighting an assortment of no-fuss, artistic, and innovative approaches to repurposing your old cards.
- Spare your fingernails. Use the rigid edges of old plastic cards to scrape stubborn residue from floors, walls, and other surfaces.
- Keep them on hand during winter to scrape ice from frosty windshields, suggests Terry Wendelken, co-manager of ReSOUCE in Barre, Vermont.
- Make guitar picks. For a traditional rounded triangle shape, trace another pick on the plastic and snip with your scissors. Or purchase a pick punching tool. Several versions, such as Pick-a-Palooza, are sold online and in select stores. The products usually resemble a stapler and work similarly to a paper punch.
- Use as bookmarks, Wendelken says. His bookmark is an old Blockbuster card.
- Fashion a spare key. An Instructables user offers do-it-yourself instructions for creating an emergency spare.
- Whip up — or buy — jewelry fashioned from upcycled gift cards. Slice cards into circles, diamonds, or other desired shapes, taking advantage of vibrant patterns. Examples of gift card earrings featured on Etsy include Furrealzies and NelleNsNovelties.
- Use the rigid edges for applying paint to a canvas.
- Snip plastic cards into petite squares or other shapes. Use the pieces to form mosaic designs embellishing picture frames or create your own unique artwork. Examples of extravagant credit card mosaics are offered on artist Amy Orr’s website.
- Cut and fold cards into flower box fridge magnets. DIY instructions are offered on Instructables.
- Use old cards to shingle a dollhouse, suggests Wendelken.
“I like working with the cards because of the colors and difficulty to repurpose,” Orr says. “I have thousands of credit cards, sorted by color… People send me cards from all over the world to incorporate into my work.”
Breanna and Eric Price of Furrealzies are working to expand their selection of merchandise made with upcycled gift cards. “We enjoy the fact that we can use what had become a worthless piece of plastic and elevate it into a creation that people can wear and enjoy,” Breanna Price says. “What was once destined for a landfill can now be worn and shown off as wearable art.”