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American Express is pioneering the first credit card made of upcycled ocean plastic, available later this year. Photo: American Express

American Express is pioneering the first credit card made of upcycled ocean plastic, available later this year. Photo: American Express

The Inertia

Restaurants and other centers of commerce may very well soon be asking customers if they intend to pay with paper or ocean plastic. That’s because in 2018 American Express, in cooperation with Parley for the Oceans, announced plans to launch the first credit card made of upcycled marine plastic debris.

When AmEx made the announcement back in June, the card was 12 months away from being available to the general public, according to a statement. “The inspiration for the card is to combat plastic pollution in the oceans and to raise awareness of this important issue,” said AmEx.

With bans on plastic bags, plastic straws in diverse parts of the world, and global campaigns that extoll the benefits of multi-use water bottles over single-use plastic ones, the appetite of the general public to find plastic alternatives if not cut certain uses of plastic out entirely goes without saying. But when consumers think of plastic pollution, bags, straws, food packaging and containers are typically the most egregious offenders. By comparison, little thought is often given to the plastic credit/debit card of which most people have multiples in their wallets and use daily. This effort by American Express is the first – besides credit/debit cards made of metal – to create a card from an alternative to virgin plastic.

“Every second breath we take is created by the oceans,” said Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley, in a statement. “Without them, we can’t exist. American Express is creating a symbol of change and inviting their network to shape a blue future, one based on creativity, collaboration and eco-innovation.”

No updates yet on when AmEx’s ocean plastic card will be available to the general public, but if all remains on schedule it could be as soon as this summer. And while the card itself is a tangible, physical manifestation of American Express’ commitment to the oceans through its partnership with Parley, the company also outlined a number of steps it plans to undertake in the coming years to reduce its plastic usage and carbon footprint based on Parley’s AIR (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) strategy.

These include phasing out single-use plastics in the company’s Centurion airport lounges, creating a comprehensive waste-reduction strategy, and pursuing a zero-waste certification for its headquarters in New York by 2025, among other goals.

“Our oceans play a vital role in our lives, the health of our planet and the health of travel and tourism, which American Express has long supported. It’s important that we raise awareness and do our part to keep our oceans blue,” said Doug Buckminster, Group President of Global Consumer Services at American Express, in a statement. “Partnering with Parley is the right next step as we pursue our larger vision of backing our communities and sustaining the planet we share.”


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