Editorial Team

Our Visa Card Will Be Made From Ocean-Bound Plastic. Here’s Why.

For the last few years, it’s felt as if every credit card provider and Fintech challenger has released their own version of a metal card. The original, launched in 1999, was the American Express Centurion “Black” Card — it immediately became a signifier of mega-wealth and exclusivity. When Chase released theirs in 2016, it quickly sold out. It became an emblem of luxury — a status symbol desired by a certain class of consumer.

In the 21 years since the Centurion launched, the market has become flooded with metal cards attempting to attract consumers though association and the sheen has quickly worn off. (Before Fyre Fest, fraudster Billy McFarland created Magnises, an invite-only metal card that the New York Times later dubbed “a hunk of metal, a chunk of clout.”)

Consumers’ attitudes towards credit cards have also evolved. Credit cards are no longer something that one aspires to and earns the right to use as they were from the 1950s into the 1990s. They are now everyday tools, and consumers want cards that work for them rather than having to work for the card.

When we were creating our own card, we decided to resist the magnetic pull of metal. We also decided to look beyond art and design. As with everything Unifimoney, we took the time to investigate the “why?” rather than chasing convention.

What if we could do something different? What if we could make a choice that could actually have purpose, even in a small way? After all, it’s the compounding of many small actions made automatically every day that we advocate for and enable with Unifimoney.

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As of December 2018, there were 20.48 billion credit, debit and prepaid cards in circulation, with more than 6 billion produced every year. A vast majority of those cards are made from first-use plastic and most will never be recycled because of the price of separating the chips and removing the ink.

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean and if usage and waste continue at current rates, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by weight. Facts like those are existential in scale, which can force us to inaction. But we thought if we can find a simple, cost-effective way to help this situation, it was our responsibility to do something.

So, we reached out to CPI Card Group — a payment technology company and leading provider of credit, debit and prepaid solutions who are the makers of the innovative Second Wave™ card — and agreed to issue the Unifimoney Visa debit and credit cards using ocean-bound plastic. The Second Wave™ cards cores are made with recovered plastic waste that has been diverted from oceans, waterways, and shorelines.

“We estimate that for every 1 million Second Wave payment cards produced, over 1 ton of plastic will be diverted from entering the world’s oceans, waterways, and shorelines,” Jason Bohrer, CPI’s SVP and general manager, said.

In a study commissioned by CPI and performed by an independent research firm,

  • 96% of those surveyed said they were concerned about the amount of plastic waste making it into the ocean.
  • 83% liked the idea of a card made with plastic that would have otherwise ended up in the oceans.
  • 58% said they would switch financial institutions (if they provided the same services and benefits) to obtain the more environmentally sound card.

This was the perfect opportunity for us to do something impactful that our users actually wanted.

It’ll be a long time before we’re issuing a sizable percentage of the 20 billion cards in circulation, but we want to make sure that Unifimoney can make the most impact while offering the best product and service at all times. And hopefully, we can be a catalyst by showing a different way.

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In 2002, underwater photographer Wolcott Henry had an idea. In his travels around the world, he’d seen the immeasurable damage to coral reefs and also the heroic work of local organizations to protect them. He knew his fellow divers would gladly support these non-profits’ work if they had the chance, so he hired a firm to help build a US-based non-profit foundation that could support local groups in Indonesia, East Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. By 2003, the Coral Reef Foundation had expanded its mission and it became The Ocean Foundation.

“Part of why we created The Ocean Foundation is that you’re not a marine biologist. You’re not a marine chemist. You’re not a physical oceanographer. You’re not an expert in the interaction of fisheries and villages in Indonesia. But you care about the ocean and you want somebody who will vet these projects, who will vet the science, who will vet the social science, who will vet the politics and risk,” Ocean Foundation President Mark Spalding says. “We’ve grown from our very modest start to a larger organization with projects and grantees in 40 countries on 7 continents.”

In recent years, Spalding has become increasingly concerned about ocean plastics. Not only is the level of plastic in the ocean growing, but the problem is a “terribly difficult one to solve.” That’s because rather than biodegrading, the plastic breaks down in the ocean into smaller and smaller fragments until it’s eventually eaten by a creature seeking phytoplankton. The small bits are nearly impossible to remove from the water, because any net that could collect them would also grab everything else in its path.

“The heartbreaking piece is that once the plastic gets to the ocean and begins to break down, it’s basically too late. Getting it out of the ocean is wildly expensive. Getting it out of the ocean without harming ocean plants and animals is really, really hard,” Spalding says. “The plastic for these credit cards is ocean-bound plastic, because you want to catch it before it ever gets there.”

When we spoke with Spalding, it became instantly clear that The Ocean Foundation was the organization to partner with. So, we set about creating a way for Unifimoney users to make a giant impact, effortlessly. With each purchase made with our ocean-bound plastic card, $0.01 will be donated to The Ocean Foundation.

That money will help fund projects around the world working to reduce plastic waste in the ocean, to combat ocean acidification, and to curb the effects of global warming on the seas.

“This partnership is an opportunity for people to be able to do something that, because of the accumulative effect, can make a difference without it really being that much of a burden on anybody at any given moment,” Spalding says. “What we’re doing here is allowing people to seamlessly see a transaction go to the best possible projects and also reminding them every time they use their card that a bit of plastic bound for the ocean has been diverted.”

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Problems on the scale of ocean plastic waste and global warming feel giant and therefore hopeless. So, as we spoke with Spalding, we had to ask how he decided to take on a project as big as the ocean and how he finds the energy to face down that yeoman task every day.

“I think it’s natural to feel hopelessness in face of the scale of climate change or ocean acidification. And so, what helps is taking steps every day to make things better,” Spalding says. “When you came and called us and you said, ‘We have this idea.’ I was like, ‘Cool. This makes me feel good. It will make others feel good too!’”

Most people want healthy oceans for today and for the future — they want to do more. But, in the fast-paced world, it’s easy to get diverted. We get that; Spalding gets it too. Which is why Unifimoney has partnered with CPI and the Ocean Foundation to create our Visa credit and debit card.

Our entire goal with Unifimoney is to create high-performance banking that’s effortless. So, why not create a card that effortlessly improves the world?

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