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Can CDs Be Recycled? 29

Cencini asks: "After spending a nice rainy afternoon backing up files and music onto several CD's, and being aware of the decreasing price of recordable CD media (and increasing general popularity), I can only imagine how many recordable CD's are produced each year, how many are thrown out, and how much in the way of raw materials goes into their production. Has anyone looked into the possibility (creative or industrial) of recycling these CD's, or even the environmental impact of their mass disposal (when Something Better comes down the line)? Given the fact that it's hard to throw away computer monitors in some places nowadays, I wonder where this issue is going, if anywhere..." Despite the fact that data on CDRs may last a long time, there are still situations when CDs and CDRs will be sent to the trash-bins in large numbers (bad burns for example), is there any process that we can use to recycle the used media, or are they destined to end up with audio cassettes,VHS and BETA tapes in the landfills?
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Can CDs Be Recycled?

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  • I think the best way to encourage recycling is to require manufactures (of PC's or cars or CDs or whatever) to accept back whatever they produce when the consumer is done with it. Then it's up to the maker to decide how much effort to put into making it recyclable, since it is going to be their problem. If they don't think it is worth it, they have to pay to dispose of it themselves. On the other hand, they could plan it so cleverly that recycling their products is actually profitable. In the mean time, I would go for a kitch angle with the old CD's, and try to come up with some kind of "ironic" collector interest. It worked for ABBA and Mr. T, why not for your bad burns?

  • Aol CDs, the few bad burns I produce, and any other shit cds go onto my wall. Theyre great for scattering strobe lights and using as mirrors to see what dumbass boss is coming up behind you at work. Here's a great recycling program: send them to me with some thumbtacks to hang them up with.

  • And how will these used goods get back to them? It seems that it would use more energy/materials (oil) to send the goods back then we could get out of them by recycling...
  • by Sneezer ( 131771 ) on Sunday December 17, 2000 @11:46PM (#552737)
    i have nothing useful to say on real recycling, but as for reuse, there are a number of creative things you could do...:

    • there is the ever-popular AOL/Earthlink/Bad-Burn Coaster Collection, popular in dorm rooms, bachelor pads, and finely decorated homes and gardens. (available from IKEA for only $399.95)
    • there is a car in my friend's neighborhood which has quartered CDs glued to it so they look like fish scales.
    • you could make a giant heliograph and signal (or blind) your friends for miles around.
    • having just watched A View to a Kill, i can imagine a Bond villain collecting millions of them and threatening to destroy the moon with a concentrated blast of solar energy.
    • sell them on eBay as Dreamcast/PS2 games.
    • there was a guy in Hellraiser II who had a bunch of CDs in his head, and who killed people by whizzing these CDs at them, Tron-like.

    or, for a semi-serious suggestion, you might check the art departments at local schools to see if they need lots of raw material to make lovely centerpieces and mother's day cards.

  • you'd know that Zoran didn't try to blast the moon, he only went after Silicon Valley.
  • You can see a wall o' cd's at this page [iain]. Click on the image for a biggie.

    The wall is in the office of the appropriately named UK Mirror service.


  • A friend of mine work in a plastic recycling shop. He told me they recently received a whole shipment of CD, including wrapping and jewel case, to be recycled. Apparently, the plastic is mecanically shredded to fine piece and then separated from the metal through decantation (plastic float, metal sink). The heat from the melting took care of the paper insert.

    Beside bad burn, Linux itself is great waster of CD ! Right here, I have a few CD of Red hat 6.0 and 6.1 that are going to the garbage pretty soon ... MSFT, not resting on his laurel, is also a great waster of CD, considering the amount they send to MSDN subscriber. At work, we have a few crate of obsolete MS software on CD, like Windows 3.1 Croat version, VC++ v4.0 kanji Japanese edition or Direct X 2.0 from august 1996. A year worth of coaster for a busy pub !

  • At least here in germany i have read several times about companies which recycle CDRs. They have collection stations in big computer shops where you can destroy your data (by scratching on the data layer) and then left the CDR there.

    The CDR will be cut up into very little piece and then the metallic components and the plastic components will be seperated. The plastic is used for various new products (i don't know if they even can produce new CDRs from it); for the metallic part i have forgotten what they use it for (but afair it is reused 100% too).
  • "The complex reclamation process, on the other hand, requires considerable investment in special plant and this cannot be run economically unless a steady supply of scrap material is assured."

    A steady supply is easily assured by asking the employees of the recycling plant to bring to work their unwanted AOL CD-ROMs.

  • I've started doing the same thing. :)

    You can see some of them on my webcam at

  • Also, BASF do a line of 100% recyclable VHS tapes. Some of the infrastructure may be lacking outside of Europe, but it is possible.
  • If you thread the CDs onto a shaft with a thin washer in between, and tighten them down with a nut at each end, and put this assembly on a set of pillow bearings blocks, it makes a really neat boundary layer turbine when you run water through one side of it.

    Don't make the washers too thin or surface tension will hold onto the water between the discs.

    You can also use the aluminum evaporated ones as a variable capacitor by scraping a hunk of the labelling plastic off, clamping to the aluminum,and then placing two of these back to back. Change the overlap and fasten together when you reach the right value. Note: Given the coating thicknesses, I might be leary about how much voltage I would put down this.

  • I prefer to write 'Gay Porn with Animals' and
    various other choice phrases on my old CDRs, then
    I shove them under the door crack of some kid
    down teh hall who I know is a homophobe. Fun
    stuff. Also try throwing them WAY up on the highway and if you do it just right they shatter EVERYWHERE its cool as shit.
  • Lazer tag chainmail armor?

    My mother makes CDs into ancient wool spinning devices called (curiously) "Spindles" ... Apparently they are from before the spinning wheel was invented hundres of years go ... basically its a dowel with the cds affixed at one end, with a hook into that end of the dowel to guide the wool ...

    You spin the whole thing and with a flick of the wrist you've just spun a tiny tiny bit of wool ... musta sucked back in the day

    The old ladies dig it cuz its "high-tech" ... :)

  • Well, we can't have two Bond flicks with the same bad guy doing the same bad thing, can we?

    I can see him, watching Bond, smoking some $3 crack, and then he sees an AOL CD and thinks- Hmm, how would an insane super-genius try to threaten the world with CDs. The obvious answer is by blowing up the moon. Jeez. I wonder what they'd call the new Bond chick...

    Miss E.C. Laye?
    Miss Bea Jaye?
    Miss Shae Ven Pussie?
  • Um, how do you propose they will read it? A CDROM drive is a fairly sophisticated device, while the codecs and filesystems required to be able to read them will probably be unknown. However, the idea you put forward is interesting.

  • by Gregg M ( 2076 ) on Monday December 18, 2000 @11:16AM (#552751) Homepage
    CDs are the one thing we should not be recycling. They are easy to recycle. But let the people of the future do it. IMHO In the future, garbage dumps will be archeological gold mines. Bought and sold for millions because of all the non-recycled plastics and metals the future can grab from them.

    They will also preserve information about all we did in the 20th. Think about it! Looking through our garbage is the only way to see a honest representation of a people. CDs will be better than newspapers to tell the people of the future, what the hell happened back in the 90s!

    We should fill them up with our daily journals and pack them in the garbage. Nude pics of our girlfriends, scans of receipts, email archives, ICQ logs, anything you can think of. Pack them with all of the things TV and Newspapers will not record about our time.
  • I have a friend who took the decorating one step further. She covered the ceiling tiles with them, track side down. The room was lit with torchieres, and the CDs acted like little circular diffraction grates, subduing the intensity and throwing colors all over the room. It was pretty cool looking, and worth the months of collecting the little buggers.
  • I use all of my bad burn and other junk CDs for coasters in my house. I have 15 now, and I'm sure that will continue to grow. You'd be amazed at the beautiful enhancements a Sharpie can add to the back of an ugly old AOL disk. It's way better than AOL itself. (Coasters are faster and work slightly more than 35% of the time. AOL can't protect lovely wood finishes, either.)

    Pico for life...

    If I were stuck on a desert island with only
    one person, one book, and one record, I'd
    probably die of exposure.
    --The Kids In The Hall

    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.
  • That's why you burn your downloaded ISO images onto CDRW's, not CDR's. Then when the next version of your favorite distribution comes you, you just use the CD again!

  • Scratch two grooves in the aluminized side, to divide the coating into four sectors. Connect two opposite sectors on each disc. Now you've got the plates for a butterfly variable capacitor. Nylon washers and the like could probably let you stack up a bunch of these and set the plate spacing effortlessly.

    Love the idea for the Tesla turbine. Sounds like it would make a really cool science-fair project.

    / \ ASCII ribbon against e-mail
    \ / in HTML and M$ proprietary formats.
    / \

  • Not recycling, but here are a few things people have done with old CDs: 1 [georgehart.com], 2 [neosoft.com], 3 [tankgrrl.org], 4 [earthplaza.com]
  • Yet Germany has managed to do precisely that - with packaging, anyway. As of January 1, 1993, distributors must accept at their cost all packaging used to contain retail goods.

    Consumers are required to place these items in special bags (separate from organic waste, and certain categories of generic recyclables such as glass and aluminum), which are picked up at curbside and centrally sorted. They are returned to the producing company which must recycle at least 60% of the material.

    This responsibility is transferrable, so many companies have cooperated to achieve economies of scale by forming joint ventures to collectively handle classes of recyclable and/or disposable materials. The largest is a pan-industry cooperative called Duales System Deutschland which owns and licenses the right to the Grune Punkt logo that travelers to Germany have no doubt seen everywhere.

    The effect has been that producers of retail goods in Germany have drastically improved their packaging, eliminating the insane crap you see in the USA (cookies in their own little plastic shells, single-serve crackers-and-cheese, etc.). Once consumers were faced with paying the actual passed-on costs of these shockingly wasteful products (rather than transferring the costs to their perhaps more responsible neighbors and fellow taxpayers), the demand dried up.

    While the sorting and recycling process may be more expensive than dumping the stuff in a landfill or sending it off on a barge to Russia, the net cost may actually go down due to the decrease in wasteful material production. In any case the mitigation of environmental externalities is priceless.

    A logical next step, and one that is being considered in Germany and elsewhere, is a similar requirement for goods themselves. The infrastructure is in place; it's a matter of working out the numbers.

  • Darn you.. make me think.. What am I made of skills?

    Real Link [lancs.ac.uk]

    Even though I tested it, here is a plain text version in case it gets screwed up:\
  • Oh, yawn. Hieroglyphics were probably considered "fairly sophisticated" back in the day, and when papyrus came along, boy, that was technology.

    The Future will probably have some machine that automagically reads and decodes anything. I just wonder what they'll think about the fact that there are 10,000 AOL CDs for each living person on Earth . . .

  • I wish I could claim credit for the idea, but in fact someone else though of it long ago and it has been implemented already for some products.
    So where do they get the resources to move the stuff back from whence it came? Maybe from the same place they get the resources to transport it to a landfill and bury it. Maybe a well-designed product ought to continue to have inherent value even after it its "useful" life is over, so that someone will find it worth while to transport it. Think about the effort it takes to collect cans, or junk cars. It is obviously worth it to someone. The good thing about such a system is that it doesn't mandate specific procedures or technologies on the manufacturer, as does a law such as requiring all the plastic in a product be of the same type. You just tell them to make the product have a green life-cyle, but let them engineer any solution they want to the problem, including throwing the product in the trash--at their expense. And their customer's expense. But not the competition's customer's expense.
    Is that explanation enough?

  • there was a guy in Hellraiser II who had a bunch of CDs in his head, and who killed people by whizzing these CDs at them, Tron-like

    Wow... I don't remember that one... course, I haven't watched it in a bunch of years. I do remember that in I Come In Peace there was an interplanetary drug dealer who had a gun that shot homing CDs that sliced through people's throats.
  • Mr Sartre reincarnated!

Don't get suckered in by the comments -- they can be terribly misleading. Debug only code. -- Dave Storer