Recycle CD and DVD

Wondering what goes on in recycling centers to recycle CD and DVD? Wondering what else you can do with unwanted CDs and DVDs, other than recycle them?

Read on.

What CDs and DVDs are made of

CDs (ie. Compact Discs) and DVDs (ie. digital versatile discs or digital video discs) comprise of a mainly polycarbonate (type 7 plastic) disc body (ie. 75% by volume), with dye and reflective layers on the surface.

The dye layer (containing materials like metal azo) is needed for the storage of data, while the reflective layer (made of metals like aluminum or even gold) reflects light from the laser reader.

Sending CDs and DVDs to landfills is not the best way of disposing of them, as the materials used to make CDs and DVDs are not biodegradable. In fact, they may release Bisphenol A into the environment and have an adverse impact on our health. In turn, burning CDs and DVDs in incinerators releases much toxic fumes into the air.

The best way to go is actually to reuse and recycle CDs and DVDs. Read more about what else you can do with unwanted CDs and DVDs below.

The recycle CDs and DVDs process

The generic process to recycle CDs and DVDs basically involves the generic recycling process of collecting the recyclables, sorting them by their types, processing them into raw materials and manufacturing new products using these recycled raw materials.

Nevertheless, there are some variations from the process of recycling other materials.

To start the recycle CDs and DVDs process, the CDs and DVDs are separated from their cases or covers so that only the discs are accumulated for recycling purposes. The cases and cover (made of paper as well as plastic) may be sorted and kept separately, so that they too may be sent for recycling at their respective recycling centers.

In some instances, the surface of the CDs and DVDs (eg. using sand or mechanic action) is burnished to remove the dye and reflective surface. Subsequently, the removed dye and reflective surfaces are treated with chemicals to retrieve the valuable metals used in making the CDs, as well as the polycarbonate plastic disc.

For example, in a Hong Kong Olympiad school project, Sing Yin Secondary School found that ethanol and Fenton’s Reagent (ie. ferrous iron and hydrogen peroxide) could be used to dissolve away the dyes, breaking them down into substances like carbon dioxide and water, leaving behind the metals.

In turn, the remaining plastic disc is washed and can then be reused to make new CDs and DVDs, or shredded into polycarbonate regrind (a form of raw plastic material) for reuse in automobile manufacturing or the construction industry.

In a variation of the recycling process, the CDs and DVDs are first shredded, before they are melted and de-metalized (ie. the metals used in the production of CDs and DVDs are removed). This process leaves behind plastic that can be reused as a raw material in the manufacturing industry.

Tips on recycling CDs and DVDs

Because CDs and DVDs aren’t worth very much (it is the data that costs!), you are unlikely to be paid when you recycle CDs and DVDs.

Nevertheless, it is important to recycle CDs and DVDs, because you are doing your part for the earth!

Over the years, the numbers of recycling companies that have taken on the task to recycle CDs and DVDs have increased.

Some organizations that accept unwanted CDs and DVDs for recycling include Diskrecycling.co.uk in the United Kingdom, Greendisk.com in Washington and the Compact Disc Recycling Center of America.

Check out the other recycling collection centres that take in unwanted CDs and DVDs.

It doesn't matter what condition your CDs or DVDs are in. Even broken ones will be accepted. Nevertheless, shredded discs should never be mixed with other shredded materials (eg. shredded paper), as it can lead to contamination in the recycling process.

If you are worried about data in your CD or DVD, you can cut the CD or DVD into half using a pair of heavy duty tin shears first, before you send them for recycling.

Alternatively, you can destroy the CD or DVD by breaking it into two using your hands. But do remember to wear a glove and break the disc in a container or a bag. In this way, when the CD or DVD shatters, the sharp plastic bits of the CD or DVD would not hurt you.

What else to do with unwanted CDs and DVDs

In line with the Reduce Reuse Recycle principle of waste management, it is actually best to first reduce, and then reuse, rather than to recycle CDs and DVDs. Recycling your CDs and DVDs should come last.

Here are some tips to reduce the use of CDs and DVDs:

  • Switch to other forms of data shortage, such as portable hard-disks and thumbdrives, where more data can be stored and the storage devices can be reused again and again (as opposed to non-rewritable CDs and DVDs, which are no longer useful once the data stored becomes obsolete).

  • Download music and videos, instead of buying them on disc.

Here are some tips to reuse your CDs and DVDs:

  • If your CD or DVD is damaged, repair it. You can either send it to a CD repair shop, or Do.It.Yourself (DYI) for small scratches. Just apply a minute amount of toothpaste on the non-label side, with strokes radially out from the center.

  • If you have in hand some CDs and DVDs that you do not want anymore, consider selling them away at a garage sale, or even giving away your old CDs and DVDs to friends or charity organizations.

  • In turn, if you need to buy CDs or DVDs, buy second hand ones as much as possible, to reduce the number of new CDs and DVDs that have to be produced.

  • Use your unwanted CDs and DVDs as coaster, so you do not need to waste money purchasing actual coasters. The CD/DVD coaster can actually look quite stylish and innovative. Try it out!

  • Hang some CDs or DVDs in your garden – the reflection from the surface of the discs can help scare away birds and protect your plants and fruits.

  • Fashion your unwanted CDs or DVDs into a mobile, either as a toy in your child’s room, or for decorating your room in general.

  • Use your unwanted CDs or DVDs to create design mirror. Using adhesives, attach the CDs or DVDs onto the wall, with the reflective surface facing up to serve as the mirror surface. Arrange them in the way that suits you!



    Where To Send Unwanted
    CDs & DVDs For Recycling?

    If you take in unwanted CDs & DVDs for recycling, I would love to share your service with my readers.

    Anyone intending to get ride of their unwanted CDs or DVDs will definitely find your service information very useful.

    Please share with us the following details:
    - location of CD & DVD collection centre(s)
    - type / condition of unwanted CD or DVD that would be rejected/accepted by collection centre(s)
    - any fees incurred / reimbursement given for using the recycling service
    - any additional service(s) provided (e.g. free transportation of unwanted CDs or DVDs to collection centre)
    - contact(s) for queries

    Note that regrettably, we are unable to provide links to external webpages.

    Enter the name of your collection company / centre
    (e.g. California Recycling)


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