Consumers have a strong desire to address the Earth’s plastic waste problem. According to a CPI Card Group Consumer Insights Study, conducted by an independent research firm, 96 percent of respondents say they are “concerned” about plastic waste in the oceans, and 63 percent are “very concerned.” Forty-nine percent are already reducing their plastic usage by bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, while 47 percent choose to purchase items made with recycled materials1.

But there is confusion in the marketplace around the use of terms like recycled, upcycled and recovered.

For decades, recycling has been the most commonly used term, reflecting the growth of local municipal requirements for separating waste materials like plastic, newspapers, cardboard and glass from trash destined for the landfill.

According to Merriam-Webster, the term “recycle” is defined as: “to process materials or substances in order to regain material for human use.” Recently, “recycled” has come to mean the reuse of plastic or other discarded material in its same original form (e.g., plastic or glass bottles that are disinfected, relabeled, and reused).

Today, however, consumers and businesses can look beyond simple recycling in their efforts to repurpose waste materials. Certain materials like plastics can be “upcycled” in a different form than their original, such as a disposable plastic milk jug that is converted into material for constructing playground equipment.

Merriam-Webster defines “upcycle” as: “to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item: to create an object of greater value from (a discarded object of lesser value).

Technology has matured to enable the upcycling of recovered ocean plastics into a wide variety of industries and applications, including consumer goods like eyeglass frames, buttons and zipper pulls.

Certain types of lightweight, strong recovered ocean plastics like high-density polyethylene (HDPE) have been upcycled and molded into large shapes for outdoor applications like furniture and playground equipment. This versatility has also allowed recovered ocean plastic HDPE to be used successfully in portable drink coolers and similar applications.

Likewise, there is an intriguing opportunity in payment cards. CPI has introduced Second Wave®, a payment card with a core made with recovered ocean-bound plastic to support consumers’ desire for more eco-friendly products and address card issuers’ sustainability commitments. CPI estimates that for every one million Second Wave® payment cards produced, over one ton of plastic will be diverted from entering the world’s oceans, waterways and shorelines.

If your financial institution is ready to offer EMVCo compliant and dual interface capable payment cards using recovered ocean-bound plastic, click here to find out more.


1CPI Card Group. “Consumer Insights Study,” conducted by an independent research firm, Schor Insights and Strategy, among 529 debit and credit card users between 18 and 65 years of age, November 1-2, 2018.

Jack Jania

Written by: Jack Jania, VP of Product Management and Innovation for Secure Cards at CPI Card Group.