This year, more than any other recent year, plastic may save Christmas.
Not in terms of packaging or medical personal protective equipment, but for last-minute gift buyers who can't find what they want in the store and opt for gift cards instead.
While cards may not have the same sentimental value, they are practical (as anyone who's ever tried to figure out what to get a teenager) and an easy option for an unexpected guest at the holiday table.
But while more gift cards may be exchanged this year, that doesn't mean that card manufacturers are coasting along with steady business. The International Card Manufacturers Association noted that producers have faced the same supply chain issues as every other plastics processor. Meanwhile, new technology for credit cards could completely disrupt the existing industry.
"The global card industry and cards themselves are being reimagined," the ICMA wrote in a blog earlier this year. "Card industry changes are taking place across the globe at unprecedented speed and scale amid economic and geopolitical uncertainty. This new landscape presents huge opportunities for those willing to seize the upside of disruption."
Just to note a few: greater demand for contactless technology, including the potential for biometric sensors that would replace physical cards; consumer demand for more environmentally friendly products, including more sustainable cardstock; streamlined production to reduce the potential of supply chain disruptions on orders and deliveries; and new materials that could eliminate plastics altogether.
"In the distant future, we see the rapid growth of paper cards in all short-term and single-use plastic applications," Greg Maze, director of product management for packaging at Neenah Paper in Wisconsin, told ICMA.