Are Paper Business Cards Bad For The Planet?

Believe it or not, paper business cards are made from paper. Interestingly, most people think that because paper is biodegradable, business cards must be environmentally friendly. While there are viable options and eco-friendly processes to make them sustainable, they’re generally bad for the planet.

If you’re an environmentally conscious individual seeking to reduce your impact on the environment, you’ll be pleased to know that we cover what makes for eco-friendly business cards. Additionally, you might be surprised that your existing cards are damaging the environment more than you think.

Is The Process Of Producing Business Cards Eco-Friendly?

Well, this is a very ambiguous question, as processes vary depending on the style of business card you’ve chosen. So, we’ll discuss each of the elements that potentially make up your business card and discover if they’re recyclable or not.


You can’t have a paper business card without paper. In its untouched, unprinted, and unfinished form, the weighted paper used to make business cards is recyclable. However, it takes a lot of resources to make paper – for example, it takes approximately 1L of water to make 1kg of paper. Furthermore, humans destroy 6 million trees per year to produce 100 million business cards. Interestingly, the paper production process is actually the third-largest source of industrial pollution in the US.

Additionally, although paper is biodegradable, it releases incredibly harmful methane gas into the atmosphere as it decomposes. 


Nowadays, many companies and manufacturers are moving toward using eco-friendly business card printing. Some inks are made using vegetable oils, meaning they are biodegradable. However, conventional inks use mineral-based oils containing metals, so the process of making these inks has a negative impact on the environment, and so does recycling or discarding them.

Laminate & Finishing

Another part of the print process that many people neglect to consider when discussing the environment is laminating and finishing. Many businesses go all out to create flashy and luxurious business cards. Usually, this includes numerous laminating and finishing processes such as UV embossing, matte touch, foiled effects, and more, but all of the processes mentioned contain plastic or metal. There are processes being introduced to reduce their impact, but they are still bad for the planet.

Can Business Cards Be Recycled?

The recyclability of a business card is dictated by the production process. If you use processes that don’t include lamination, then no matter the ink used, your business cards are recyclable.

However, to make printed business cards recyclable, the ink must be separated from the paper, and the separated ink then needs to be discarded. Often, this is put back into the ecosystem, damaging plants and altering soil nutrients because of its high metal content.

What If Business Cards End Up In Landfill?

A massive 25% of all landfill waste is paper, meaning it’s highly likely that discarded business cards are going to wind up in a landfill. As mentioned earlier, as paper decomposes, it releases high volumes of methane gas, which is much more harmful to the environment than CO2 emissions.

Due to the questions around recycling and the problems with paper in landfills, people and businesses should reduce their paper usage as much as possible, reverting to other options.

Quantity Is The Problem

When ordering business cards, many businesses do it in bulk, buying thousands at a time to save printing costs. However, this is a huge detriment to the planet. Additionally, most of these business cards never get used, as they are often discarded because of a job title change, phone number alteration, an employee leaving the company, or a business card redesign.

This never-ending cycle of printing and discarding makes the entire production and usage of business cards incredibly unsustainable.

Eco-Friendly Business Card Alternatives

The rise of the digital business card will have a hugely positive impact on businesses. Additionally, they greatly reduce the negative effects on the environment. Firstly, there are options that use no physical card at all. When created, they produce a unique QR code that people can scan to pull your information up on their phones.

Secondly, and more impressively, there are no NFC and RFID options. These physical environment-friendly business cards are often made using more hard-wearing materials such as metal, plastic, or wood. As you would expect, the production processes will have some impact on the environment. However, you will only ever need one card, so there’s no need for mass reprinting or bulk ordering.

When contact information needs changing or a new employee joins the company, simply log in to your online account and update the details. This automatically refreshes the information on your card, so the next time it is tapped or scanned, the new details will appear.

Digital business cards save time and money and are much better for the environment than traditional business cards. There are a host of other benefits of sustainable business cards too.

In Summary

Yes, paper business cards are bad for the planet. Although there is a range of more sustainable processes and materials being introduced, their impact is still greatly detrimental. To reduce your carbon footprint in the long run, you should turn to digital, NFC, or RFID business cards.