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CD/DVD Recycling: Overlooked E-Waste

Picture of CDs and DVDs piled together.Vinyl records are making a comeback. Nobody uses cassette tapes or 8-track tapes anymore. CDs became the golden standard as a medium for music consumption in the late 1980s. Throughout the 1990s, they soared to popularity through cheaper electronics and easier access. Their popularity started to decline in the early to mid-2000s, but they hung in there. Today, we still have CDs for our music and DVDs for our video, but much of the content we consume is all digital. From streaming music and video services to MP3 downloads, our personal library of content has transformed mediums once again. But, what happened to the old stuff? E-waste is a growing problem and one which we can start to solve now. Most of our beloved tech hardware, as well as the discs and drives that we use with that hardware, contain hazardous chemicals that can poison our landfills. Because the CDs and DVDs from yesteryear can’t be put in your Waste Connections Memphis single-stream recycling bin, let’s show you how to reduce your e-waste through CD recycling.

What is E-Waste?
E-waste is shortened term for electronic waste nearing the end of its “useful life.” With electronics, the phrase “useful life” means the amount of time that a given electronic device will function as it was designed. E-Waste can include any outdated or obsolete appliance or electronic device found in offices, homes, and pants pockets. Old televisions, microwaves, computers, and cell phones are all common examples of e-waste.

E-waste is becoming a growing problem because, in our technology-driven age, the useful lifespan for devices and products is getting shorter and shorter.  Consumers demand the “the next best” thing and companies answer that demand by updating and improving devices. Because consumers are concerned with getting the latest and greatest, they’re getting rid of devices that have not yet reached the end of their “useful life” and many times end up in the garbage. Not only should e-waste be kept out of your trash receptacle, it should also be kept out of your single-stream recycling bin.

Wait, isn’t E-Waste Recyclable?
This is where it gets a little complicated. Yes. E-waste is recyclable. However, e-waste requires special disposal and has a very specific recycling process, which is why it’s becoming such a problem. Unlike paper and plastic, e-waste can’t be shredded, melted, and molded into a brand new gizmo. There are specific metals and components that can’t be recycled in the same manner as others.

CDs and DVDs are Made of Plastic, So Why Can’t I Put Them in the Recycling Bin?
CD/DVD recycling is so easy because of the materials they’re made of. Even though CDs are made of highly valuable recyclable materials like polycarbonate plastic and aluminum, they’re not accepted in Waste Connections Memphis single-stream recycling bins. CD recycling saves substantial amounts of energy and prevents significant amounts of both air and water pollution attributed to the manufacturing of these items from raw material. CD/DVD recycling requires a special process to break the discs down to their basic components.

Each year, billions of CDs (and DVDs) are manufactured and simply thrown away. They end up in landfills and incinerators, which both cause unnecessary damage to our environment, wasted energy, and the loss of valuable resources. Filling landfills with CDs isn’t a viable disposal option either because CDs don’t break down readily. Over time, CDs can release Bisphenol A (BPA), which can cause health implications in humans. Burning CDs releases toxic fumes into the air we breathe, and they require a special recycling process that isn’t accepted in single-stream recycling bins.

Consider This:
  • It requires 300 cubic feet of natural gas, 2 cups of crude oil and 24 gallons of water to manufacture a pound of plastic (30 CDs per pound).
  • It is estimated that it will take over 1 million years for a CD to completely decompose in a landfill.
  • Approximately 100,000 pounds of CDs become obsolete every month (outdated, useless, or unwanted). 
And This:
  • It is estimated that AOL alone has distributed more than 2 billion CDs. That is the natural gas equivalent of heating 200,000 homes for 1 year.
  • CD recycling means material for new products. Specialized electronic recycling companies clean, grind, blend, and compound the discs into a high-quality plastic for a variety of uses, including: automotive industry parts, raw materials to make plastics, office equipment, alarm boxes and panels, street lights, and electrical cable insulation, and even jewel cases.
  • Discs are ground into a gravel-like substance, which is sold to companies that melt it down and convert it to plastic.
  • In 1983, when CDs were introduced in the United States, 800,000 discs were sold. By 1990, this number had grown close to 1 billion!
  • More than 5.5 million boxes of software go to landfills and incinerators, plus people throw away millions of music CDs each year! Source: backthruthefuture.com
What Can I Do?
Recycle:

  • The Compact Disc Recycling Center was founded in 2006 to provide consumers and companies education, awareness, and options for easy CD and DVD recycling. The website provides valuable information on how to take part in and where to find CD recycling near them.
  • Free CD/DVD Recycling & Free Hard Drive Recycling services are offered by Back Thru The Future Technology Disposal to consumers.
Reduce:
  • Convert to a digital streaming service like Pandora, Spotify, Google Music, Amazon Music, or Apple Radio. These are all great ways to listen to your favorite music.
  • Services like Hulu and Netflix cut down on the amount of DVDs you have to buy or rent to view your favorite shows.
  • By switching from physical to digital, you reduce the amount of e-waste you produce. As providers of content see that less physical media is being consumed, they decrease production on products that can produce e-waste.
Picture of shredded CDs and DVDs.Even though CDs and DVDs can’t be placed in your single-stream recycling bin, Waste Connections Memphis offers residential service that include bi-weekly, curbside recycling along with weekly trash collection. Don’t forget to sign up for the Recyclebank program to earn rewards when you recycle! If you have any questions about residential service, or would like to request service, please email us or call us at 901-398-5400.

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