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One employee’s idea keeps 200 tons of plastic from landfills

With his retirement around the corner, Tim Nickel, didn’t think his legacy after 15 years at Best Buy would be gift cards. But then again, he didn’t know his idea would help keep more than 200 tons of plastic waste from landfills.   

That idea was a recyclable paper gift card.  

Tim, who’s our gift card production manager, is responsible for printing the cards and getting them on store shelves in the U.S. and Canada. In 2011, he learned just how many gift cards go to landfills and that each one takes around 500 years to break down.  

“My goal was to get rid of plastic because it’s just terrible for the environment,” Tim said. “Thinking about my kids and my kid’s kids and everybody else’s, I just thought that we got to do something here, we can’t just be throwing plastic in landfills forever.”  

This led him on a six-year journey to map out how he could bring his idea to life. The first Best Buy recyclable paper gift card was introduced in stores in 2017, followed by three more in 2018.  

“In the name of sustainability, my team said ‘Let’s go for it, let’s switch it all to paper,’” Tim said.  

In 2021, they achieved their goal: 100% of all physical Best Buy gift cards were made of paper and could be recycled.  

Sustainability takes time, innovation 

Gift cards are great for many occasions, from birthdays to weddings. But they haven’t traditionally been 100% recyclable. To create such a gift card, Tim worked with paper mills for years to innovate on design, materials and production.  

It was also important for him to get the smallest carbon footprint he could. The paper mill behind our cards, based in Wisconsin, uses wind power to fuel its entire operation. When it comes to the sustainability of the gift cards, they are made of FSC-certified paper (meaning it comes from responsibly managed forests), are made up of 30 percent recycled content and use water-soluble glue and ink, which are harmless to the environment.  

We are one of only a handful of retailers to offer customers 100% paper gift cards. 

“This is my legacy here at Best Buy,” Tim said. “When I leave, this is the one thing I am going to feel really good about — I am very proud of that actually.”