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

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 However, the EPA estimates that every month approximately 10,000 pounds of CDs become outdated and unwanted.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.