What is the problem with Gift Cards?

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It may seem a little impersonal, but a gift card can solve the problem of not wanting to give a gift that may not be wanted. In fact, gift cards have now become the most requested gift. However, one website estimated that 400 billion gift cards were purchased worldwide in 2021. 


What is the problem with gift cards?

Most gift cards are made of PVC plastic, which is not even degradable, meaning it doesn’t break down. 400 billion gift cards in one year alone and rising, is an awful lot of non degradable plastic! 

Even the production and use of these cards is not good for us or the environment. 

PVC contains dangerous chemical additives including phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to our health. These toxic additives can leach out into the water supply or evaporate into the air over time, posing unnecessary dangers to us and our children1,2.


What is an alternative?

In the past, I have used a combination of a gift card plus something small that is more personal. Now that I am more aware of how much non-recyclable waste the plastic gift cards create, I am using paper or electronic vouchers instead. 

There are several options:

🎁 A handmade voucher for an experience with you rather than a physical gift. Kids especially love some one-on-one time with a parent. Something like a visit to the Lego Museum, a night camping, a fairy afternoon tea, or a visit to the latest art exhibition with lunch together afterwards. Remember to choose what interests them and not you. 😁

🎁 An email voucher sent by a company that offers things like a neck or back massage, a dinner, a dinner, zip lining, or for something extra special for your loved one, a weekend away.

🎁 A Digital Gift Card (aka e-gift card) for an experience or cash (popular with the teenagers) can be sent to your recipient’s mobile via SMS on the day. I would suggest you send a text with a heads up before you send the actual card so they don’t think it is spam and delete it before reading (I’ve done that). 

🎁 For those who don’t have a smartphone, you can send a Digital Gift Card by email and give them a card or note to let them know that their gift is waiting for them in their emails.

I personally like to give gift vouchers for an experience rather than for more “stuff”. Think of an experience they would not normally do or buy for themselves. I also like to buy one for myself so that the recipient and I can have the experience together. Isn’t it true that we remember our time and experiences with another person much more than we remember any gift?



  1. https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/opmrdd/health/pvc.html
  2. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/chem_background/exsumpdf/organotins_508.pdf