Let’s do without plastic!

In the last decade, people have manufactured more plastic products than over the past century. Plastic waste escapes into the world ocean every year, building into massive garbage patches, with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch already reaching three times the size of Germany.
Let’s do without plastic!

Although the financial industry does not utilize as much plastic as food producers, banks do have a long way to go to reduce the use of plastic. SberBank’s annual plastic waste footprint goes as high as 125 metric tons, with plastic cards constituting the bulk of it.

The damage here is obvious – it takes up to 700 years for this garbage to decompose. That is why SberBank has set itself the goal of limiting the use of plastic and to recycle the plastic we can’t do without. Here’s more about this line of work.


of plastic can be recycled

Reducing plastic usage

Every year, banks issue some 20 million plastic cards in Russia alone. When these expire, they go to a trash can and then to a garbage dump.

Completely abandoning plastic cards is not yet possible, but many alternative payment instruments are emerging, with smartphones among the most popular ones today — one in three Russian uses it as a payment method, according to the NAFI research center. This means that plastic cards are no longer that necessary.

The growing popularity of virtual cards proves that. For instance, the Northwestern Federal District of Russia issued 266,00 digital SberBank cards in 2020 alone, which is almost a six-fold increase y-o-y. By the way, this saved 1.3 metric tons of plastic.


of new cards will be digital ones by 2023, SberBank forecasts

Yet, in 2021 we have gone even further with the Plastic-free Card service, letting clients order any debit card in addition to a Digital Card, plastic-free. When ordering a card via SberBank Online, you can hit the “Let's Go Without Plastic” button and instantly start using the card that will be inside your smartphone.

This offering is as convenient and potent as conventional cards. Simply link your card to a mobile payment service — Sber Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay — to pay in stores and online, send money, and even withdraw cash at ATMs.

“Many of our clients actually activate their cards remotely or don’t pick up the ‘plastic’ cards at all, with one of ten new cards being digital. By going with a plastic-free card, clients make a small but important contribution to the preservation of the environment.”

Igor Kovalyov
Acting director of Customer’s Wallet, SberBank

Recycling plastic

Many of Sber’s employees do care about the environment, with the HQ receiving lots of creative ideas about making Sber a more environmentally friendly company. The most promising ideas become projects that Sber supports.

We had over 150 projects like that by the end of 2020. For example, there’s one from a Khabarovsk branch where Sber employees decided to show their coworkers and clients what full circle recycling meant, from waste sorting to making a new product. To that end, they gather plastic waste that will later be recycled into a chair. The project team intend to place the chair at their branch for every customer to see that plastic recycling is not the future that is hard to reach, but the present that is at hand.

As many as 2,500 Sber branches already accept used and expired cards. Their number is scheduled to increase soon — according to plans, 14,000 Sber branches will be collecting used cards by October 2021.

After they are collected, cards are sent to a company that separates plastic and chips, which then go to a manufacturer of plastic household products and a refinery for clarification.

Cards get a second life after being ‘melted’. For instance, they become plastic window frames and sills.

Cards are not the only plastic product we strive to recycle. For example, Sber turns its used plastic cups into eco-friendly pens.