Digital, Plastic or Paper?

24 Nov 2020

The act of selling gift vouchers has been around for years. It is a cost-effective approach for businesses of all sizes to keep their brand at the forefront of customers minds and drive further sales. However, one increasingly recurring question business owners are asking is: What material should I print my gift vouchers on?

“Go green” and “Save the Trees” are increasingly prevalent messages in our society, as many organisations encourage individuals to switch to electronic transactions and communications. But are these ideas based on fact?  Is digital proven to be more carbon friendly than paper or plastic?  

Is the digital switch really better?

It is common knowledge that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than more traditional, paper-based forms. Many organisations are now increasingly going online or making changes if their customers wish to receive paper-based communication. But switching to digital is not always welcome. ‘Two Sides’ – a not-for-profit organization aiming to eliminate common paper myths – understand the convenience of going digital, but highlights certain individuals who are being left behind. These include the most vulnerable members of society such as the elderly, the disabled, rural dwellers and those on low incomes who are at risk of becoming disconnected.  The environmental impacts of our digital world also cannot be ignored. Whilst perceived and advertised as the carbon neutral alternative to paper, the ICT industry accounts for approximately 2.5-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, predicted to rise to 14% by 2040.

47% of individuals surveyed believe they spend too much time on electronic devices, and 46% are concerned the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging for their health (read more here). Thus, there is seemingly little sign of the gift voucher industry moving away from its reliance on physical. So, with that being said, we move onto the next rivalry: Paper vs Plastic.

So, why paper?

Paper is a product that seems to be on the rise in the gift voucher market. The key drivers for this are cost, sensitivity to renewable resources, options for recycling and the quality for personalisation.  As a uniquely renewable and sustainable product, the main raw material is wood, and if grown and harvested carefully in a controlled and sustainable way, seems to be a much more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic gift cards. The paper industry has a number of well-known certification schemes such as The Forestry Stewardship Council (with which Secure Vouchers is proudly accredited), ensuring paper used in production has come from sustainable sources. In fact, European forests, where most of the raw material comes from, have grown by an area the size of Switzerland in just ten years. With more and more businesses now pursuing the eradication of single-use plastics in an effort to tackle the global plastic pollution problem, now seems to be the right time to make the switch from plastic to paper or cardboard gift vouchers. People are tuning in to the need to prevent plastic cards entering landfill or waterways and oceans.

There are many paper-based gift vouchers on the market today, with very little complaints about their longevity, with companies such as Apple, Amazon, Sony and Facebook all switching to paper-based gift cards. Moreover, thanks to fewer stages in the paperboard production process, production timescales are considerably shorter than other options. This provides companies with more flexibility to changing designs during the production process, often at a cheaper price.

To conclude

There is seemingly no sign the industry is moving away from demanding physical gift cards, with overall growth in the industry increasing 10.73% year on year. With Generation Z and Millennials leading the way with their gift voucher purchasing frequency, it is now more essential than ever that the gifting industry evolves to meet the needs and desires of the modern consumer.

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You can create your own voucher, use one of our templates, or our team of gift voucher design experts can give you a helping hand. If you’d like to find out more, then please feel free to contact our friendly team who will be happy to help.

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