May 25, 2022
Frequently Asked Questions About Paper Cards
• Is a paper card with a magstripe recyclable?
There are many unfounded objections around what a magnetic stripe added to either a paper or plastic card does to the ability to recycle. For plastic, the magstripe is almost always either buried under a thin plastic laminate or adhered to the laminate surface so its suitability to recycle is a moot point. For paper however, adding a mag stripe doesn’t necessarily affect recycling. It depends on how the magstripe is applied to the card. Optimum Card Solutions’ method removes the clear plastic liner during application leaving just the magnetic stripe material. The main component (75 per cent) is iron oxide, commonly known as rust. The rest is binder, dispersants, and lubricants. The magstripe tape thickness is about 10-12 microns. (For reference, the thickness of a human hair is 50 microns.)
A paper card with a magnetic stripe can be recycled provided that the PET has been removed. It is then merely paper printed with an ink. But unlike a lot of printed products that use petroleum solvent-based inks, Optimum takes sustainability and recycling suitability up a notch by also using only water-based inks and adhesives in their card making method.
• What about adding decorative foils? Does that negate the recyclability?
Similar to the magnetic stripe application, if the clear release liner is removed during the application process, then foil stamping will not be harmful during the recycle process. Once applied, the foil material is nothing more than pigment and if metallic, a thin layer of aluminum. Foil thickness emulates the thickness of magstripe. Optimum always removes the foil release liner.
• Aren’t most inks made of oil?
In the offset printing process most, offset inks are petroleum-based. At Optimum Card Solutions, we use water-based inks and adhesives on all our paper cards keeping the carbon footprint the lowest in the industry.
• Are scratch offs on paper cards durable?
While we can never fully control how a consumer treats a product in the field, Optimum Card uses scratch offs that are better suited for a paper card versus a PVC card. The growing industry pivot to paper cards has caused scratch off manufacturers to create a better solution.
• Myths regarding the recycling of plastic in the USA
Read here to learn more about the recycling of plastics in the US
• How many other retailers are using a paper card?
It is estimated that of the 3.2 billion cards produced annually, approximately 60-70% use paper as the substrate of choice. Each year more and more retailers are converting their cards to paper.
• Does Optimum Card offer testing on the paper cards?
Optimum has conducted numerous tests for companies that have made the transition to paper cards. We have our own in-house testing procedures and can share reviews of independent 3rd party testing as well. Prospective clients can have a small batch of test cards printed using your art file. This will enable you to see our test results and give you samples to do your own testing if desired. We encourage field testing because we are confident of the results: paper performs just as well as plastic.
• You can’t wash paper cards and they tear, right?
Paper cards have been in use for a decade now. Card holders almost always keep them in wallets. Optimum emulates washing cards in wallets and gets great results. Once dried, card serial numbers stay intact. Paper does tear. But at its common thickness a card holder would have to tear it deliberately. Optimum’s durability testing includes bending the card numerous times. Test results typically show that a card bent back and forth over 200 times still stays intact. Remember, a bent plastic card almost always ruins the card’s magstripe readability.
• We have heard that the cards start to turn yellow over time and don’t stay flat. Is this true?
All card manufacturers when using paper use stock that is coated on both sides that makes the surface smoother and brighter. Paper manufacturers use optical brighteners that tend to yellow when exposed to light over time. Optimum Card uses paper that has no optical brighteners in its construction, so it won’t yellow over time.
Paper is made on rolls. The curve of the roll remains in the memory of the paper. So, over time and in high humidity situations, paper will curl. Optimum’s manufacturing method negates the paper memory. Card inventory made several years ago still show complete flatness.