If you grew up in the 1980s, 1990s or early 2000s, you probably have a huge collection of CDs and DVDs in a closet somewhere that you just don’t know what to do with.
They may bring up fond memories, but a sprawling collection of unused discs and plastic CD cases can also take up a lot of space.
Nowadays, most of us stream digital music on Spotify and watch movies on Netflix, so what do you do with all those little compact discs you’ve accumulated over the years? Are these unwanted discs inevitably going to end up in a landfill?
When you’re rummaging around in the closet and come across an old Hootie & the Blowfish CD or that scratched DVD of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” don’t despair. There are plenty of eco-friendly ways to recycle these discs and get them out of the house!
We broke down these sustainable disposal methods into three categories: Resell, Recycle and Repurpose. Now you’ll be able to clear those stacks of unwanted CDs and DVDs out of the closet and know that you aren’t polluting the Earth in the process.
You might think second-hand stores would never take CDs or DVDs but many of them actually do. There’s still a market for them!
Record Stores and Online Distributors
When I moved from the East Coast to California a few years ago, I brought my unwanted CD collection to my local record store, and they bought every single one of them. They didn’t even care about scratches because they had a machine that repairs damaged CDs. These stores may also take old vinyl records and cassette tapes as well.
DVDs are a little bit trickier. Some thrift stores and record stores are interested in buying these used discs, but your best bet is to sell them online. There are tons of websites that help you get rid of old junk, hassle-free.
Check out this list that has a bunch of online vendors that want your old DVDs. These companies will even give you shipping labels to print out for an easy mailing process. Once they get the disc in hand, they pay you almost instantly.
The Charitable Route: Libraries, Nonprofits and Thrift Stores
If reselling isn’t an option for you, or if you’d rather give to charity, you can call your local library to see if they’re taking donations of CDs and DVDs. You can also drop them off at a nonprofit thrift store like Goodwill, which always takes donations.
Whether you resell through a store, ship them to an online vendor or donate them, it’s much better for your CDs and DVDs to end up in somebody else’s collection than in a landfill.
CDs and DVDs are complex objects, composed of materials like polycarbonate plastic, aluminum and lacquer. So when it comes to recycling, it’s not as easy as just tossing them into the bin along with your cardboard boxes and soda cans. They are recyclable, but you’ll have to do some research first.
Your first move should be to look up your town or city on Earth 911’s Recycling Search to see if they take CDs in their curbside recycling program. But here’s where it gets a little tricky: even if your city takes disc recyclables, they might not take the jewel cases they come in.
If your local program is able to recycle the entire package, you’ll have to separate the CD, the plastic case and the paper inside the case (i.e. the liner notes) when you put them all in the recycling bin. (Note: if your local recycling requires you to separate your items by category like plastic, metal, paper, etc., call them to ask which bin CDs should go in). If this all sounds needlessly complicated, just remember that improperly recycled materials can do serious damage to a recycling plant’s operations!
If your curbside recycling program doesn’t take CDs or cases, your local recycling center might.
Can’t find any local solutions? Try getting in touch with GreenDisk or the CD Recycling Center of America. You can mail your materials to either of these recycling centers. GreenDisk also takes other forms of e-waste, such as hard drives and VHS tapes. They know exactly how to recycle and transform those complex plastics and metals into new manufactured items.
Repurpose and Reuse
You can also get creative with those old discs! I couldn’t believe the number of DIY projects that Lifehack.org showcase in their list of “24 Wonderful DIY Ideas To Do With Old CDs.” The shiny, reflective surfaces of CDs mean they can become beautiful art objects to hang up on the wall or ways to add a cool touch to objects you already own. People have used old CDs to make tabletops, guitar picks, coasters, mirrors — even a bird bath!
As you can see, there’s a lot you can do with your old CD collection: resell them, recycle them, or repurpose them into something awesome. Whatever you do with them, just make sure you don’t throw them in the trash and contribute to pollution by letting them end up in a landfill!
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.