As with anything one recycles, it’s important to ask “Could someone else use this?”
The ultimate solution is to donate the disc(s) to your library or a local school–reuse where possible. Of course, with your data discs, reuse isn’t possible. But, perhaps some sort of upcycle art project IS possible. A few options are listed here on make-stuff.com.
There are three main pieces to consider when recycling discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays or HD DVDs): the Disc itself, Cover & Liner Notes and the Jewel Case. Some materials are more easily recycled than others, but all can be put to new use.
CDs (Compact Discs), DVDs (Digital Video Discs), et al. are made of similar materials and contain three main components: plastic, metals and ink. Discs are made mostly from polycarbonate, although a small amount of lacquer is also used as a protective coating. Aluminum in the primary metal in discs, but traces of gold, silver and nickel are also present. The dyes used in printing on the disc itself contain some petroleum products, but when it comes to recycling, only metal and plastic are processed.
Cover and Liner Notes
Generally, cover and liner notes are made from paper and are relatively easy to recycle.
While some CD and DVD cases are now made of paper or biodegradable products, most are still made with plastic #6, a cheap, but hard-to-recycle, material. Of the three components of CD and DVD packaging, jewel cases are generally the most difficult to recycle, but there are some options.
- A CD/DVD is considered a class 7 recyclable plastic
- To manufacture a pound of plastic (30 CDs per pound), it requires 300 cubic feet of natural gas, 2 cups of crude oil and 24 gallons of water
- It is estimated that AOL alone has distributed more than 2 billion CDs. That is the natural gas equivalent of heating 200,000 homes for 1 year
- It is estimated that it will take over 1 million years for a CD to completely decompose in a landfill
How the Process Works
The components are sorted at the collection center, separated into discs, paper and cases. All paper gets bailed and sent to a paper mill for recycling. As for cases in good condition, they are inspected, packed and sold to raise money for the facility. Any remaining damaged cases and ALL discs get sorted in bins, and packaged in a container destined to a plastic reclaiming center.
Some discs leave whole, some leave as regrind. Regrind is where the discs are ground and shredded into small pieces–this allows for more materials to be loaded into storage bins/bags. This is now considered a scrap plastic that gets melted at the reclaiming center. When melted, the discs are de-metalized separating the plastic and metal component in the disc. Once the discs are de-metalized, they are formed into a low-grade of raw plastic.
Discs and cases yield a different grade of plastic. This plastic is not of sufficient quality for the food or medical industry product use; however, it is fine for the automotive and building materials industries.
The Data on my Discs is Proprietary.
If your data is sensitive, it is highly recommend that you destroy them prior to sending. Shred them, break them or scratch them…
You should only have to pay the cost of shipping to any recycling center–some will ask for a donation, though… Select a suitable package, reuse a box! Or, the US Post Office “Flat Rate” boxes are also an excellent choice.
Remove the discs from jewel cases and recycle any paper. Keep all components separate (disc, case, paper). Most facilities will accept jewel cases for recycling if they are empty.
Write “Free CD” on the outside of your shipping box.
Where to Recycle?
On ecycler, all you have to do is click on “start recycling” and scroll down to the list of shippable items. Select discs and indicate how many you have to recycle. Then, you will be taken to your dashboard, where you can view the transaction and print out a customized printing label so that you can ship them off. Ecycler also will e-mail you the shipping label, along with shipping instructions for each type of item.