Payments company Mastercard on Wednesday launched a global project to recycle credit and debit cards as part of a plan to save the billions of cards in circulation across the industry from landfill.
Initially partnering with British lender HSBC Holdings Plc in eight branches in Britain, Mastercard said banks across the world, some of which have launched local initiatives, would be able to join the programme and help build economies of scale.
"We are inviting all card issuers around the world to partner with us, no matter what region they are in, and offer card recycling to their customers," said Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence at Mastercard Inc.
Under the plan, Mastercard will provide shredding machines to HSBC, each of which is capable of holding 10,000 cards, equivalent to 50kg (110 pounds) of plastic. Once full, it will be transferred to a plastic recycling facility.
Financial details about the plan were not disclosed. The pilot project, which will run for an initial six months, will allow customers to recycle any plastic card, including those from rivals.
"This recycling pilot will provide us with some very important insight and will inform our longer-term plans," said Jose Carvalho, head of wealth and personal banking at HSBC UK.
Currently, Mastercard said it has around 3.1 billion cards in circulation. Each year, it estimates around 600 million cards are produced by the industry, each with a life span of around five years.
The Nilson Report, which analyses the industry, put total cards in circulation at nearly 26 billion in 2022, and forecast that could rise to 28.4 billion by 2027.
Soaring plastic use has created one of the world's biggest environmental challenges, with plastic waste buried in landfills or polluting rivers and oceans. The manufacturing process for plastic is also a major source of planet-warming greenhouse gas.