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Climate for Action: Give CDs a Listen, then Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

2009 February 10

About the Author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA

With the convenience that we have with our computers to buy music and burn CDs off the internet, it makes it so easy to get copies of the latest albums and movies. One of my good friends is always downloading movies. She now has shelves stocked with all types of CDs and DVDs. It amazes me and makes me wish that I had better computer skills because she can easily have any CD or DVD that she wants in just a few minutes.

This is so easy to do, but do the benefits outweigh the environmental consequences? If you read about the Life Cycle of a CD or DVD, you will see that CDs are made with many materials and a lot of energy is used to produce them. When a CD is thrown away, potentially toxic materials can transfer into the ground. But when is the end of your CD’s life? My friend has a library by now and saves all of the discs that she has created. However, the EPA estimates that every month approximately 10,000 pounds of CDs become outdated and unwanted.

So, what is everyone doing with their CDs that they no longer want? They could swap them with friends, turn them into art or recycle them. I’m interested in what you do with your unwanted CDs — or if you can think of ways that we can avoid throwing them away. How can we educate our friends about other options? This month at the EPA in Philadelphia, we are holding a used book, DVD and video collection. When it is over, we will donate them to local organizations that could benefit from their use.

I definitely feel like this is an area where teenagers can make a difference. Let me know how you and your classmates can make changes to prevent waste.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. mariannebarrows permalink
    February 10, 2009

    Decorating and then creating mobiles and seasonal ornaments are both great ways to recycle/reuse old CD/DVD’s.

  2. Lindsey Lippert permalink
    February 10, 2009

    Why not eliminate the use of DVD’s and CD’s altogether? Like many other twenty-somethings, I own an iPod. By purchasing relatively cheap composite cables, I can plug my iPod directly into my stereo and television, effectively knocking out the middle man.

  3. Lisa permalink
    February 10, 2009

    I agree. I think CDs / DVDs will become obsolete in the future as files are transferred directly. You can download movies on your computer and either watch directly on your computer or plug it into your TV. You can also download movies on your DVR. With iPods and other MP3 filesharing, there’s really no need to copy anything to a CD. It’s eventual – CDs/DVDs will go the way of tapes and floppy disks soon.

    Of course, that still leaves the question – what to do with all of the unwanted CDs/DVDs? A quick Google search on CD recycling shows there are a number of places that will recycle CDs/DVDs by grinding them up and melting them down for use in building materials, for example.

  4. Michelle permalink
    February 11, 2009

    Good idea. If you’re into art there are a lot of cool things you can make out of CDs. I was impressed with the way people were decorating recycled CDs and using them as Valentines Day gifts at this website

  5. Michelle permalink
    February 11, 2009

    Yes- this is a great way to eliminate CD waste. My iPod can store a couple thousand songs, but I’ve heard of iPods holding up to 500,000 songs. There are also iPod Docs that allow you to play music without headphones so you can share your music with others without copying CDs.

  6. Michelle permalink
    February 11, 2009

    Good question Lisa. What should we do with that waste? I never heard of recyclers taking CDs and turning them into building materials. It’s a good way to recycle them. I found a link to an organization that does that. I think they have an address to send your CDs to also.

  7. GregorE permalink
    February 11, 2009

    If you’re willing to be creative, there’s lots of ways to reuse unwanted CDs. For example, I’ve seen some folks string-up their old cds near vegetable gardens… the reflectivity seems to keep the birds away. As some others have already mentioned, the use of CDs in artwork is another great way to reuse them.

  8. Michelle permalink
    February 12, 2009

    Really interesting! Good substitute for keeping your gardens growing.

  9. Sharon permalink
    June 2, 2009

    I’ve heard that if you paint owl faces on 1 side of the old cds and hang them in the veggie garden it will keep the birds away. I’m going to try it this year so I’ll let you know!

  10. desiree may at listen music permalink
    July 31, 2009

    good idea in terms of recycling and preserving the environment and very helpful to thanks for this.

  11. gerry permalink
    September 17, 2011

    Very innovative stuff. What we really need is for someone to put up money for commercials informing people. I really just don’t think most people think about this kind of thing even though they “should”. We all have to live on planet earth together, after all. Makes sense to preserve Her.

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