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178-EN, General section

Wooden cards; An alternative to the use of PVC, PTEG or polystyrene in gift cards, key cards or access cards.


Used for payment when issued as a gift card or opening a hotel room when used as a key card a PVC card with a magnetic stripe fills many functions. Each year, roughly 30 billion PVC cards are produced. A wood card will provide the same functionality and performance but with a much smaller carbon footprint and with a less damaging environmental impact.

Substituted substance(s)

  1. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

    CAS No. 9002-86-2 EC No.  Index No. 
  2. Polystyrene

    CAS No. 9003-53-6 EC No. 500-008-9 Index No. 

Other type of alternative

A wood card is manufactured by assembling unaltered plant material, FSC certified birch veneer, laminated on each side with a FSC certified long-fibrous (nonwoven) paper using a water based glue to create bonding between the individual layers. A magnetic stripe or barcode is then applied on of the sides of the laminated material as well as a customer specific design or print (this process is the same for a wood card as for a PVC card).

Reliability of information

Evidence of implementation: there is evidence that the solution was implemented and in use at time of publication

Hazard assessment

Polyvinylchloride (PVC) is a polymer classified as H315, H319, H330, H335, H373 and H412. Both PVC and polystyrene has some issues concerning disposal e.g. biodegradability and dioxin release during combustion.  A life cycle assessment of the wooden cards compared to cards made of PVC, polystyrene or PTEG has however been made by a public non-profit organization which concluded that wooden cards had a lower environmental impact than the plastic cards.

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Substitution description

Established in 2006, Sustainable Cards is the world’s leading wooden card manufacturer. The card products and the manufacturing process have been analysed and tested by two independent environmental research firms; Natural Capitalism Solutions and The Jegrelius Institute. Their findings, including an ISO-norm Life Cycle Analysis, verify that wooden cards are more sustainable than other products in the marketplace, including any form of PVC, Polystyrene and bioplastic. There is research showing that switching from PVC cards to Sustainable Cards can reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent.

The wooden cards are manufactured from Nordic Birch harvested in certified sustainably managed forests in Scandinavia. The manufacturing process requires 30 % less energy than production of PVC cards, and no hazardous chemicals or additives are used.

The function of the wood cards is comparable to plastic cards and so is the duration time. The cards are compatible with most existing payment processing systems and hotel locking systems. They are also compliant with critical ISO standards. The cards are available in different colours and prints of the users choice.

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Case/substitution evaluation

PVC and polystyrene are compounds associated severe environmental issues, especially in the disposal process. A safer, biodegradable option such as the wooden cards described here could be one way to phase out these chemicals from daily use. The life cycle assessment by the Jegrelius Institute for Applied Green Chemistry clearly shows that wooden cards are a better choice from an environmental perspective.

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Other solutions

Further information

Life cycle assessment from Jegrelius Institue:

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Who provided the information

Type of information supplier
Producer / distributor


Peo Åkesson, CEO and founder
Sustainable Cards Europe AB
Fabriksvägen 1
840 93 Hede, Sweden

Publication source

Thomas Östberg
Jegrelius – Institute of Applied Green Chemistry
December 2011

Type of publication and availability 

Freely available

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Publication or last update: 23.05.2012