As part of our mission to protect the planet, from this month, every new Starling customer will receive a debit card made from recycled plastic. Our new and replacement cards will now be made from 75% recycled rPVC plastic, with the other 25% – the chip and laminated surface – made from non-recycled materials.

The new cards are the first UK Mastercard debit cards to be made from recycled plastic.

At Starling, we have an opportunity to build genuinely sustainable practices from scratch and prioritise prevention over cure. We’re already branchless, paperless and run on renewable energy, and last year, we started planting thousands of trees every month. This year, we’ve become a founder signatory of the TechZero group, pledging to become a NetZero company – and rethinking our debit cards is an important step in that direction.

Collectively, the world holds over 17 billion bank cards – which is an awful lot of plastic by anyone’s standards. We can’t do much about the sixteen billion nine-hundred and ninety-eight million other cards – but we can try to clean up our corner.

Why are we using recycled plastic?

Our card designer Mark Day explored a range of options, from degradable and bio-sourced plastics to materials like metal and wood. He quickly discovered that most alternatives have clear downsides or aren’t quite as green as they first appear.

By using mostly recycled plastic, we’re making sure that far less plastic is being produced to make our cards, and that we’re making the most of what already exists. It’s the most sustainable and realistic option currently available.

Where does the recycled plastic come from?

The core of the card is made from recycled PVC from EU industrial waste, for example, plastic packaging. The card’s laminated surface and chip isn’t made from recycled plastic, as that isn’t available as an option yet.

Has anything else changed?

The only difference is what it’s made of: the design and functionality remains exactly the same. Our packaging also remains unchanged – why change something that’s already 100% recyclable? We even use water-based glue so it can be separated from the paper.

If you’re excited about this change – great! Us too. But please don’t cancel your current card for the new version. Replacing it unnecessarily just creates extra waste (which is what we’re trying to avoid). You’ll receive the new and improved ‘greener’ version when your current card expires.

Becoming a more sustainable bank

This isn’t a perfect solution to the global plastic problem. But it’s an important step forward in our life-long journey towards becoming a more sustainable bank.

A world without cards could be a real possibility in the future (in fact, we’ve already found that Starling customers are three times more likely to use their mobile wallet than to pay with their card!). But for the moment, we’re determined to reduce the impact ours has on the world.

Because in that regard, all cards are definitely not created equal.

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