How to Recycle CDs and DVDs

An Overview on Recycling CDs and DVDs

Many of us have stacks of old CDs and DVDs sitting in our home offices, not quite sure where they should go. The number of obsolete DVDs and CDs is enormous, with over 45 tons of the stuff collected in homes and offices worldwide every single month![1] Good thing you haven’t thrown them away! Made primarily of plastic, DVDs and CDs would take up to 1,000 years to decompose if you sent them to a landfill. And they’re made with useful materials like gold, lacquer, dyes, and aluminum. Plus, they are often coated with a layer of BPA, a chemical that’s harmful to human health and the environment. Add to these problems the ubiquitous plastic and cardboard containers that come with new DVDs and CDs and you’ve got quite a mess.

Unfortunately, most CDs and DVDs aren’t really worth that much unless you’re looking to get rid of old music or video games. That means the types of recycling programs for this e-waste are a little more limited than those for other more valuable electronic waste. Nevertheless, there are plenty of options for recycling CDs and DVDs. Tune in to the rest of this article to find out just how.

How to donate or sell secondhand CDs and DVDs

Obsolete disks of all sorts often create piles of chaos in our lives, but with these solutions for getting rid of DVD and CD waste, you’ll find that you’re living freer of e-waste!

  • Put a stop to waste: First and foremost, we recommend that you find ways to minimize your use of this type of data storage and waste.
    • When looking for new software, downloading is always eco-preferable. The same goes for music and videos (legit copies, of course!).
    • Choose hard drives (external or internal) or cloud-style storage for your data.
    • When you receive useless DVDs and CDs in the mail, return them to the sender so that they pay the postage and the disposal consequences.
    • If you must store data on a disc, choose re-writable discs that can be used 1,000 times ore more, and look for high-capacity options that hold a lot of data (DVDs are usually better for this purpose).
  • Donate useful DVDs and CDs:If you’ve got useful, current copies of software that you no longer need, you may find that a local charity can make use of it. Call around to your favorite nonprofit organizations to see whether they’re looking for just such an in-kind donation. Alternatively, check with your local library to see whether they’d accept donations of music and videos for their collection.
  • Trade in or sell secondhand CDs and DVDs:Music and video DVDs and CDS can often find new homes with people who have similar interests. First, call your local used book and music stores to find out whether they will take your music or videos on a consignment, trade-in, or cash basis. If there are no such options in your neighborhood, check out our recycling database for lists of stores and trade-in centers that will reuse your old DVDs and CDs.

Recycling CDs and DVDs

Sometimes there are no ways to reuse your old DVDs and CDs, in which case recycling is your next best option. Here are several things to keep in mind when looking for CD and DVD recycling solutions:

  • Wipe out data:If the DVDs and CDs you’re trying to recycle contain personal files and information, you’ll first want to wipe their memories so that you’re not exposing your privacy. You can generally accomplish this by simply giving the discs a good scratch or similar damage with a pair of scissors or a hole puncher.
  • Avoid cheesy, useless recycling crafts:If you’re able to find a truly useful way to reuse DVDs and CDs in your home, we’d like to hear about it! But if you’re not decorating your home with a techno theme, DVD coasters and CD wall paper aren’t generally very attractive. Nor are these types of crafts a good use of the materials. Recycling is much greener.
  • Find recycling options: Once you’ve prepared your DVDs and CDs for recycling, find a local collection center that will responsibly dispose of these used storage items. Our recycling database is filled with options for just this purpose, though you can often find recycling drop-off boxes at your local electronics store. Many of these recyclers will also take your used DVD and CD plastic cases (ask first before you send them).



1 Good Stuff? - CDs and DVDs. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2010, from WorldWatch Institute:

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