No longer paying with plastic: introducing the first biodegradable credit card

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It's been promised for several years, but now it's apparently here. Discover Financial Services has announced that they have the only American biodegradable consumer credit card. (If you have a Discover card and want yours to be biodegradable, click here and look in the middle of the screen, where you'll be directed to click once again.)

The card is made of something called biodegradable PVC, and 99% of it will break down and can safely mesh into water, dirt or wherever it winds up. The ordinary, nonbiodegradable PVC, which is primarily used in buildings, when it's created and when breaks apart and chemicals get into the soil, carcinogens are created, like dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, which sounded harmless enough to me until I started reading that they can cause things like cancer, birth defects and neurological damage.

So kudos to Discover, and I suspect it's frustrating news to Virgin Money on the other side of the Atlantic. They announced in England last year that they were going to be releasing their own biodegradable credit card, only to admit in the summer of 2008 that they'd not be launching one any time soon. Instead, they were going to focus on launching a virtual card on mobile phones.

Because if you can get rid of the plastic entirely, boy, do you have an environmentally-friendly card...

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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