Using a state-of-the-art printing technique and conductive inks, the aluminum antenna etched on plastic, typically found in smartcards today, can now be replaced with a paper-based alternative.

Arjowiggins’ Smart Papers range is already recyclable and FSC-certified, and now, with the introduction of the new aluminum-free paper inlay at the core of its smart cards, it can offer a complete solution that is fully recyclable in the paper stream.

Currently, billions of smart cards are produced every year for use in hospitality, public transport, gift cards and more. According to the International Card Manufacturers Association (ICMA), 37.1 billion cards were produced in 2019, the vast majority of which were fossil-based plastic cards. These cards are often used for a short time and eventually end up in the environment or are incinerated.

Instead, once recycled, the paper-based NFC Smart Cards can reduce carbon emissions by 95 per cent compared to fossil-based plastic cards. The contactless paper card embedding RFID technology, for example used as a hotel room key, is recyclable in the traditional paper flow and generates 0.55 grams of CO2 per card, whilst a card made from PVC generates 11.4 grams of CO2 per card.

Gael Depres, Head of Research and Development at Arjowiggins, comments: “Our NFC Smart Cards are the ideal solution for applications where secure authentication is required. The new sustainable paper inlay can be used across a wide range of applications, including travel cards, access control badges, hotel key cards, warranty certificates, gift cards, loyalty cards and leisure passes. It offers the same functionality and performance as before with the added benefit of being eco-friendly.

“Plastics like PVC only decompose upon burning, inducing toxic emissions in the process. This is a strong argument for giving up plastic smart cards.  At the same time, there’s no need to sacrifice quality when designing sustainable cards.”

Arjowiggins is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of creative and technical papers with over 320 years of expertise in papermaking and a mission to continually set international standards. For further information, visit