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How to Recycle Old CDs, DVDs, and their Cases

written by: Amy Carson•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 4/27/2009

It’s possible to recycle CDs and DVDs, but the process is a little more complicated than merely chucking them in your neighborhood recycling bin. Luckily, a few organizations have answered the call for simple CD and DVD recycling.

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    CD and DVD Recycling Overview

    When we were first trading our old cassette and video tapes for CDs and DVDs, they were like shiny new age miracle discs, but now, with the rise of electronic media, more often than not old discs are just clutter. Not only that, they are clutter composed of non-biodegradable plastic and metal. If you are looking to recycle your old CDs or DVDs but are worried about the environmental impact, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that CDs and DVDs are recyclable. The bad news is that the technique required to recycle CDs and DVDs is a little too complicated for your average neighborhood recycling center. That’s not to say that CD and DVD recycling is impossible. In fact, recognizing that ordinary people need convenient CD and DVD recycling, several organizations have sprung up to help.

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    How to Recycle Old CDs and DVDs

    With a little internet searching, it is possible to find centers that will recycle your old CDs and DVDs for free. Some include CD and DVD cases and paper liners or booklets with this service, and others charge a small fee. It’s worth your time and money to find a center that recycles for free, because, unless you are lucky enough to live near one of these recycling centers, you will probably end up having to put your old CDs and DVDs in a box and ship them out. Depending on the center, you will either be provided with the shipping materials or be required to provide your own box.

    CD and DVD recycling centers will request that you separate each component, i.e. put all discs with other discs, all liners with other liners, and all cases with other cases. Take note – if this step is not followed, the center will likely send the shipment back to you. Because the service is free it is unlikely that a recycling center will take the time to sort through large numbers of CDs and DVDs.

    If a CD or DVD recycling center for some reason will not take your cases, contact your local plastic recycling center.

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    What to do If a CD or DVD Contains Confidential Information

    Some CDs or DVDs hold confidential information and it is understandable that people worry about sending that information off to strangers. For that reason, most CD and DVD recycling centers will accept the scraps of destroyed discs. But remember, if you plan to rip or shred a disc before recycling, always wear protective gloves and eye gear. Fragments of broken discs have been known to fly in unexpected directions.

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    Repurposing Old CDs and DVDs

    There are also various ways to repurpose old discs, from covering them in special paint to create coasters, to hanging them in the garden to scare birds away from vegetables, but keep in mind that this generally only delays the recycling process and ends up making the discs harder to recycle in the long run. Who really needs 400 coasters? Repurposing can be a wonderful project, but recycling centers should be the final destination for old data discs.

    Ready to get started recycling old CDs? Check out the CD Recycling Center of America and Back Thru the Future Technology Disposal for two excellent places to begin.

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