Gateway Bank trades plastic for cornstarch with new plant-based Eco Debit Card

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For decades it’s been the norm for Australians to reach into their wallets for a plastic debit card to withdraw cash or make a payment at the counter, but that’s about to change for customers of one bank.

We’re not talking about mobile payments though, we’re talking about Gateway Bank’s new plant-based debit card - the first of its kind from a bank in Australia.

Launched on Monday, the new Eco Debit Card will largely be made of Polylactic Acid (PLA) which is created from fermented plant starches like cassava, corn or sugarcane.

That will replace the fossil fuel-based plastics (PVC) generally used in the body of a debit card, meaning the only non-plant materials used in the Eco Card will come in the form of its magnetic stripe and microchip.

“We’re proud to be the first bank to offer Australians a genuinely sustainably-produced payments card,” said Gateway Bank’s chief executive, Lexi Airey.

“It looks, feels and is as durable as a traditional debit card, but it’s a lot gentler on the planet.”

Gateway says that it will take 65% less energy to produce the Eco Debit Card than a normal plastic card and, as a result, it will generate 68% fewer greenhouse gases. The card is also designed to degrade at a faster rate without releasing toxins into the atmosphere.

‘Green’ focus becoming more of a priority for banks

Now, debit cards are hardly the largest of objects around - for good reason, given that they need to fit snugly inside a wallet. But that does raise the question as to how much of an impact a widespread change in card composition would have.

Well, as Airey points out, there are tens of millions of debit cards in use - a number which doesn’t even factor in the millions of credit cards and prepaid cards out there.

“According to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) there are 41.1 million debit cards in circulation in Australia as of March this year. Imagine the difference it could make to the planet if they were all plant-based,” she said.

That sentiment is also shared by fintech and budding neobank Hay, which launched its own 85% biodegradable card last October.

More broadly though, Gateway Bank and Hay aren’t alone in striving to provide products and services for an increasingly environmentally and ethically focused set of customers.

Earlier this month we reported on the surge in interest Teachers Mutual Bank has experienced in recent years thanks, in part, to a focus on socially responsible investment practices. Similarly, we’ve seen B Corp certified banks like Bank Australia and Beyond Bank taking a similar line on the way they invest their customers' money.

An increasing number of ‘green’ banking products have also hit the market in recent years.

For example, Bank Australia’s Clean Energy Home Loan provides a discounted rate to buyers purchasing  energy efficient homes, while funds deposited into a UBank Green Term Deposit are matched by the bank and invested into environmentally sustainable projects.

In fact, as part of the Eco Debit Card launch, Gateway Bank announced that it will be releasing several new ‘green’ lending products of its own.

“The Eco Debit Card is the latest option we’re launching under our Pocket and Planet initiative - our growing range of environmentally conscious products and services that meet the needs of our customers and the planet,” Airey said.

These include two Green Home Loans for borrowers with energy efficient homes as well as an Eco Loan (personal loan) which can be used to help purchase environmentally-friendly products like solar panels or battery storage units.

RELATED: Gateway Bank introduces monthly LMI option for low deposit home buyers

Does your current bank live up to your standards? If not, you may be interested in checking out some of these more ethical banking options.

Otherwise, take a deep dive into the topic by listening to the ‘Ethical Super and Banking options: fact or fiction?’ episode of The Finance Burrito podcast.

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