The Dawn of CD/DVD Recycling

What To Do with Unwanted Discs



Now that America has the hang of recycling paper and plastic, it’s time to begin recycling our CDs and DVDs. We can do it for free courtesy of The Compact Disc Recycling Center of America. They’ll even provide collection boxes suitable for shipping, although any mailing envelope will do. All we pay is the U.S. Post Office media rate to mail them in. Then smile, knowing we’ve done the right thing for ourselves and our environment.

Launched in 1983 with initial U.S. distribution of 800,000 compact discs, by 1990 worldwide sales of CDs and DVDs had topped 1 billion discs a year. In the 21st century we’ve upped production to 30 billion discs a year. Millions of these—unwanted, damaged or obsolete—end up in landfills, or worse, incinerated.

The volume of virgin resource use, manufacturing pollution and waste involved is staggering. Disc materials typically include aluminum from ore, gold, multiple dyes, and acrylic lacquer and polycarbonate made from fossil fuels. Glass, nickel and silver come into play, plus lots of water.

So on Earth Day, 2007, Bruce Bennett, owner of The American Duplication Supply Group, launched the CD Recycling Center and education program. “I think the main reason people are throwing out unwanted CDs and DVDs is that they simply don’t know what else to do with them,” says Bennett. Now we do.

Incoming discs come from individuals, organizations and companies. Proprietary data discs also are accepted pre-shredded, as long as the material is “clean”, not mixed with other materials. Bennett notes that every month about 100,000 pounds of discs become useless. Since its kickoff, the Center has recycled two million discs, 25 percent from individuals, 75 percent from corporations. It’s a promising start.

At the Center, discs are shredded and redistributed for recycling into items ranging from household products and building materials to office equipment and auto parts. “More products are being created and manufactured out of recycled plastics that would previously have been built from tree wood,” observes Bennett. So recycling discs not only saves energy and water while cutting pollution, it also saves trees.

Rather than dispose of any disc, Bennett encourages us to consider how to first share, donate or trade it. Rather than build up our own library of entertainment discs, why not borrow from the local library or join a subscription rental program? Minor scratches often can be repaired by rubbing a mild abrasive like toothpaste on the non-label side in a circular motion from the center out. Commercial refinishing is an inexpensive repair alternative.

With proper care, storage and handling, most discs will last for decades, maybe even centuries. The secret is to avoid exposure to extreme conditions, such as high humidity, water, heat, rapid temperature changes and certain types of light, including sunlight.


Send discs (no cases please) to The Compact Disc Recycling Center of America at 68H Stiles Rd. in Salem, NH 03079. Email Info@CDRecyclingCenter.org or call 603-890-8996 with questions.

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