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Are CDs Recyclable? How Do You Properly Dispose of Them?

CD and DVD background

Many everyday objects are recyclable, but it can be hard to determine what goes in the trash and what goes in the recycling bin. Old CDs, DVDs, and other discs that don’t work anymore are a dime a dozen, and experts estimate it takes a million years for a single disc to fully decompose.

There’s a catch, though. In most cases, you can’t just chuck CDs in your roadside recycling bin. CDs have super-thin layers of metal that must be separated from the surrounding plastic, and the good news is that plastic CD jewel cases can be thrown in the recycling bin.

So, what to do with the CDs? Collect them in a box or bag and take them to the nearest recycling center. Because not all centers are equipped to handle CDs, call and ask them first. Even if they don’t accept CDs, they probably know somewhere that does take them. Another method is to contact the CD Recycling Center of America, which will accept used CDs and DVDs through the mail.

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How Else Can I Reuse or Repurpose Old CDs?

Old used CDs
Image Credit: MoSiwa, Shutterstock

If no recycling centers nearby will accept your CDs, you’re probably wondering if you should just toss them in the trash. Not so fast! There are tons of ways you can reuse and repurpose your old CDs so you don’t contribute to plastic pollution. Let’s take a look at some of those methods below.

Ways to Reuse or Repurpose CDs:

  • Donate them to a music or record store. Many damaged discs can be repaired and reused with the right tools, and they’ll even pay you sometimes.
  • Donate playable CDs or DVDs to a local charity, thrift store, or library.
  • Use them for arts and crafts. You can make plastic mosaics, guitar picks, bird baths, and more.
  • String together multiple CDs and hang them in the garden. Birds and other small predators will be scared of the reflective surfaces.
  • Cover them with fabric and use them as coasters. They’re the perfect size!
  • Sell them online. There are numerous sites, like eBay, where people will buy used CDs.

Can I Burn CDs to Dispose of Them?

No. Like other items made of plastic, CDs release extremely toxic pollutants when burned. There are a lot of things you can do with CDs, whether you recycle them or not, but burning them is environmentally irresponsible. With that said, it also isn’t a very good way of getting rid of them because the fire may not completely destroy the disc.

What if the CD Has Sensitive Information?

As data storage discs, CDs sometimes contain sensitive information. However, the time may come when you don’t need it anymore. You’re probably reluctant to recycle or give it away, but thankfully, there are ways to wipe the data from discs before disposal or donation.

You can either insert the disc into a computer and format it, cut it up with a pair of kitchen shears, or put it in a paper shredder. A word of caution: shredders aren’t designed for shredding plastic discs, and it may cause damage to the machine. Try this at your own risk!

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CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays are used for music, movies, home videos, data storage, and numerous other things. Old, scratched, or damaged CDs can be recycled at recycling centers, but you shouldn’t put them in your recycling bin at home. If you’re artsy, you can try one of the myriad crafts to transform them into beautiful homemade decorations instead.

Featured Image Credit: Jirik V, Shutterstock


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