Fintech Hay combats plastic waste with new biodegradable Visa card

By Tara McCabe ·

After filling its first 10,000 ‘Founder’ spots, fintech Hay is not resting on its laurels. While Aussies have been getting on board with the new Sydney-based start-up, the Hay team have been busily preparing for the launch of a ‘special card’.

The reason it's so special? Well it’s 85% biodegradable and the first of its kind in Australia. 

Bank cards aren’t called pieces of plastic for nothing. Most bank cards around the world are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and take decades to break down in landfill. At which point the material becomes extremely harmful microplastics.

Plus, with millions of them produced and thrown out every year, PVC bank cards could quite accurately be described as the ‘plastic straw’ of the banking industry

Hay’s decision to offer a biodegradable card

We spoke with chief brand and marketing officer Alex Lloyd on Hay’s journey to offering a more environmentally friendly bank card.

Lloyd says Hay worked for months with Sydney-based design studio Vert on the packaging for its Founder cards (for the first 10,000 customers).

“The packaging we were able to come up with with Vert was lightweight, so it had a lower carbon footprint,” he says. “We used recycled, non-virgin, sugarcane byproduct. It was 100% recyclable, 100% compostable. You could just throw it in your compost bin.”

The packaging itself was a win for the environment, but there was a snag. 

“We spent all this time designing and trying to reduce the impact through the packaging, but at the end of it all, we were just putting a PVC card in the middle of it,” says Lloyd.

With Hay intending to reach more customers, Lloyd and the rest of the team saw a big problem, one in which the fintech could eventually be producing tonnes and tonnes of plastic with an expiry date of three years.

The solution? Hay worked with Melbourne-based card manufacturer Placard to create a biodegradable, Visa platinum prepaid card that would be ready in time for the 10,001st customer.

The big question is what is Hay’s biodegradable card made from? Lloyd says, “Essentially it’s a typical PVC petroleum based product, but with an additive that helps microbe-rich environments latch onto the product and break down strains of the plastic.”

Specifically, this material is called SICOECO. It’s a rigid PVC film with an additive that helps it to degrade in the right conditions. According to EcoSchools there are only six species of fungus that have been proven to effectively biodegrade PVC.

Proper disposal is key

Given the right conditions, these new types of materials will break down in a 10th of the time that it takes standard plastic to break down.

Lloyd says the card itself had to be durable for at least three years, so other materials like bamboo wouldn’t have cut the mustard. “The card lasts for seven years plus, soon after which it can start to break down quite quickly, if in the right environment,” he says.

Information on how to properly dispose of the card will be on Hay’s website.

Plans for the future

Lastly, Hay is currently reviewing all aspects of the business to see what environmental impact its operations have. Lloyd says Hay is aiming to be carbon neutral in 2021.

Read more about Hay in our original Say hey to Hay! article. Or, head to our fintech hub to learn more about mobile first Aussie businesses.

Tara McCabe
Money writer

Tara McCabe writes across all areas of personal finance here at Mozo from banking through to insurance. Tara is expert at practical money tips, showing readers ways to live richer and be socially conscious while doing it. She earned a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Canterbury Christ Church University.