Recycling Used CD's and DVD's
Americans love our recorded media. From the early days of vinyl records, up through the cassette and VHS era, to the digital craze of CD's and DVD's, we have accumulated billions of movies and albums. All that art is a good thing, as it brings enjoyment and enrichment to our lives; but what do we do with the piles of old, unwanted CD's and DVD's when we're done with them?
Historically, these shiny plastic discs simply got thrown out with the rest of the trash. But as millions of them pile up in landfills each year, we ask: Isn't there a better way of dealing with discarded discs? Isn't there ANY way to either reuse or recycle them? Luckily, the anwer to both questions is a resounding YES.
The plastics and metals that make up compact discs and DVDs are built to last. As long as we're listening to or watching the data that's on them, that's a very good thing. But when we're done with them, and they're sent to the landfill or incinerated, it causes problems. In a landfill, the indestructible nature of these discs mean they will remain there indefinitely; thousand of years. When incinerated, the plastics and metals can release toxic gases into the air.
Music and Movies For Sale!
If you've got old CDs and DVDs you don't want or need anymore, the first step should always be to try to find them a new home. You'd be surprised how many people are out there who would be willing to pay you money for your unwanted stuff. The goal here is to keep these discs out of the waste stream: if you can get them to somebody else who will enjoy them, and earn a few dollars for yourself, that's just a really nice bonus.
Garage sales, eBay, Craigslist, even sites like Amazon are great places for selling used CDs and DVDs. You may not get much out of them, but it's better than nothing (and on the flip side, you may have some valuable gems in your possession that are worth quite a bit of $$$. It pays to do some research!)
Reuse Old CDs and DVDs Before Throwing Them Out
Before throwing out old discs, think about ways they can be reused. Old CDs and DVDs are perfect for a number of cool art projects. Use them to set your creative spirit free! By turning them into a new piece of art (or something more utilitarian), you give them a new life much better than being buried in a landfill or burned.
Not the creative type? Check with local schools, community centers, or retirement communities. They often will accept old discs to use in their own art programs. Even if they can't take them, it doesn't hurt to ask.
Think long and hard about what you could use those old discs for; throwing them in the trash should be the very last resort. Even using them for something simple like coasters for drinks gives them usefulness.
We've seen old discs used to make homemade disco balls, lamps, car ice scrapers, bike reflectors, guitar picks, even furniture like the chair shown above. Using your imagination, a use for these orphaned discs is sure to arise.
Recycling Old CDs and DVDs
If you can't think of a use for those old discs, or you simply have way to many for you to ever be able to use, it's time to recycle. Recycling CDs and DVDs breaks them down to use as raw material for brand new products.
Until recently, recycling these discs was very difficult if not impossible. In fact, due to the type of plastic used in the discs (#7) and the fact that they are made with layers of metal , municipal recycling programs still do not accept discs. So, as tempting as it may be, don't throw them in with the rest of your household recycling. They'll simply end up in the landfill, which is what we're trying to avoid.
Companies that Recycle: The CD Recycling Center of America
For fans of these little plastic discs looking for some way to recycle them, an organization has stepped in to fill the recycling void. The CD Recycling Center of America is a group with the logistical capacity to take in discarded CDs and DVDs and process them into raw materials for future use in new products.
CD Recycling Center of America has several programs set up to collect discs from groups and individuals and have them returned for recycling. Their goal is to make the entire process as simple as possible, and to remove as many old discs as possible from the waste stream. Plastic is made from oil; using old plastic discs instead of virgin oil resources saves oil and conserves natural resources. Using recycled plastic also requires much less energy to process than virgin materials.
CD Recycling Center of America collects discs, and via their proprietary process, grind them into a powdery plastic resin that is sold to companies who use the resin to form new plastic products.
Recycle YOUR Old Discs!
CD Recycling Center of America makes it very easy to recycle your old discs. Via their website, users choose the nearest recycling center, then print off a shipping label and packing slip, and ship them off.
For groups, like schools or companies, CD Recycling Center of America offers a variety of promotional tools for free to promote the recycling of old discs. They also offer institutional recycling programs for larger amounts of discs.
Further Solutions: GreenDisk
Another company that recycles cds and dvds is GreenDisk. GreenDisk aims to be a total recycling solution for individuals or companies that need to get rid of an assortment of electronic items, including cds and dvds. GreenDisk refers to this type of waste as 'technotrash,' and they will accept all of it for recycling and reuse.
This items GreenDisk will accept includes old computers, hard drives, printers, cell phones, pagers, old film, cameras, mp3 players, zip drives, flash drives, VHS and audio cassettes.... the list goes on and on. GreenDisk safely obliterates any data on the media or electronics sent to them, then safely break down and recycle the items.
GreenDisk and The CD Recycling Center of America, as well as other firms that recycle unwanted cds, dvds, and electronics, do charge a fee for their services. Unfortunately, many will still find it cheaper to simply throw these items into the landfill; for those of us interested in the sustainable use and reuse of the earth's precious (and limited) resources, recycling items with these companies is well worth any cost incurred.
Ditch the Disc
In today's online world, many are turning away from physical products altogether. Instead of transferring music, movies, and TV shows via plastic discs, the high-speed internet makes streaming a viable alternative. Companies like Netflix, HULU, Apple, and Amazon make it possible to rent or buy movies and tvs for streaming to smartphones, computers, and TVs. Other companies like Spotify do the same for music. By streaming entertainment digitally, the physical product is eliminated altogether. Though there are some environmental costs associated with computer streaming, they are much less than the manufacture, transport, and eventual disposal of physical discs.
** Update: Old Discs Saving the Planet?? **
Scientists in Taiwan have come up with a way to clean polluted sewage water using zinc-oxide nano-rods, UV light, and old CDs (or DVDs)! This is an exciting development that could help solve two environmental problems: discarded digital discs, and water pollution.
Learn more about the process with this video:
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