Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Data Storage

Can CDs Be Recycled? 136

An anonymous reader asks: "I was recently doing a closet-cleaning and came across literally hundreds of old software CDs that are no longer usable — both manufactured CDs and CD-Rs. Note that by 'not usable', I mean that many of them simply couldn't be read anymore, possibly due to the fact that they'd been stored rather ineptly (no, I wasn't responsible for how they were stored). It seems wrong to just throw them out, but are there other things that can be done with them that will allow their raw materials to be reused in some way?Is it possible to reclaim CDs for raw materials?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can CDs Be Recycled?

Comments Filter:
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:32AM (#18700775) Homepage Journal
    and if you're drunk, try goin' at one with a metal file and making ninja stars.
    • by rustalot42684 ( 1055008 ) <fake.account@com> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:38AM (#18700817)
      It would be cool if thinkgeek or someone made cds that were 120mm wide, but they only used the 1st 80mm, like mini cds, and they had 20mm ninja star spikes or something. That may you could store your top secret ninja plans and kill pirates at the SAME TIME!
      • by LighterShadeOfBlack ( 1011407 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:56AM (#18700975) Homepage

        It would be cool if thinkgeek or someone made cds that were 120mm wide, but they only used the 1st 80mm, like mini cds, and they had 20mm ninja star spikes or something. That may you could store your top secret ninja plans and kill pirates at the SAME TIME!

        Yeah, just don't use them in a 52x CD reader or the CD will fracture and the spikes will fly off and take off everybody's kneecaps.

        ...unless that was the plan all along. Touché /.ninja, touché.

      • by miyako ( 632510 )
        That reminds me of some old soundtracks for SNES games that were sold as CDs that were shaped as characters from the games. The one that specifically sticks out in my mind is the Yoshi's Island soundtrack, with a CD shaped like Yoshi. I never actually owned any of them, but I definitely recall seeing them in the catalogs that used to come quarterly with Nintendo Power.
      • by rthille ( 8526 )
        Don't kill pirates, that causes global warming!
      • you could just do it anyway, CD's read from the center so you would just have to make sure you dont file away further than the disk has been written to
      • It would be cool if thinkgeek or someone made cds that were 120mm wide, but they only used the 1st 80mm, like mini cds, and they had 20mm ninja star spikes or something.

        These kinds of discs are available. Several years ago, DiscMakers was the first company I saw with them made to customer specs. I couldn't find them on their website but several other companies offer the service. [] rr_01 [] []

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by RabidJackal ( 893308 )
      I forget the link, but I remember some guy began making carvings out of his CDs into the shape of animals and objects.

      On a side note, I find the best ninja stars are made from CD-Rs. the commercial ones usually have an ink layer that flakes off everywhere and just looks untidy when its done.
    • by j00r0m4nc3r ( 959816 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:52AM (#18700933)
      They actually make terrible coasters, because without a material on them to absorb water, or a lip around the edge to trap it, water just rolls off onto the table.
      • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
        I use ink jet printable CDs and DVDs.. they have a nice white water absorbing layer on top. Just don't snap the DVDs..
      • by tsa ( 15680 )
        I always use them as coasters, but I use dry glasses, that only get condensed water on them. I can imagine that they don't perform well with glasses that are wet to begin with (glasses of beer from the tap for example).
    • by steveo777 ( 183629 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @11:37AM (#18702871) Homepage Journal
      I've used them to hold big candles. They reflect the light and make some pretty cool looking candelabras when you use a bunch of different colored CD's at varying heights.

      On the other hand they don't tend to stop the wax from flowing all over the place.

  • Yes! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rlp ( 11898 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:33AM (#18700785)
    But only if they're RW.
  • Only thing I've thought to do with the CDs is to use them as coffee coasters. There's only so many coasters a person can have. Since I don't drink much coffee they double up for beer too.

    The ones with sensitive data (financial) or work I shred into a shredder. I at least am aware some I might not want to give away or trash so its too easily recovered.

    Isn't the problem that the metal and polycarbon layers in the CD would be hard to separate to recycle? If CDs are "bad for the environment/recycling", is there
  • Dunno about the US. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:38AM (#18700813)
    Here in Europe, CDs are collected for recycling.
    • Dunno about Europe. (Score:3, Informative)

      by KlaymenDK ( 713149 )
      Here in Denmark, they're not.

      It annoys me so much that in a little flat country such as Denmark we can't figure out how to sort our waste, especially when the tiniest mountain villages in Austria do it. >_< Ok, rant over.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I bring them to the recycling centre like almost every other plastic I collect. Nobody ever complained. I'll look if they have a separate container for it next time I go there. There are employees that do the sorting for us. (I like going there, especially for dumpster diving in the electronics container. Nuggets I found there are a P-IV 1.9GHz and an AMD Athlon 1.2GHz... both in working order. I don't even bother taking P-III class machines anymore... *grin*)

        I don't live in Denmark though...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by KlaymenDK ( 713149 )
          Last time I went to the recycling centre with some cases of floppies and cds, the went directly into the "small combustibles" dumpster ... so not exactly recycled.

          The folks down there throw tantrums if you're caught dumpster diving, which is sad because I think direct re-use is better than eventual recycling, no? I did manage to salvage a couple of Nixies from some weird old scientific instrument, though.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            I'll take a closer look at what they do with the CDs next time that I'm there. Promised. Still, if one googles fro CD Recycling, it seems to exist.

            Oh, they weren't happy to find out when I got caught dumpster diving. Now, I just look around if there are any employees around. I don't understand it either: re-use should be better.

      • by Bloke down the pub ( 861787 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:02AM (#18701709)

        It annoys me so much that in a little flat country such as Denmark we can't figure out how to sort our waste
        Maybe you could drop it in the sea, or pile it all up somewhere into a kind of artificial hill? Then at least your country would be a little less little and a little less flat.
      • by ProppaT ( 557551 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:18PM (#18704619) Homepage
        There really is no such thing as cd recycling. The metal in the foil is considered toxic, and there's no real way to reuse the plastic because of the foil inside, so they're more than likely just disintegrated...unless there's some way to reuse the dust if it's pulverized (which I really doubt).
        • by horatio ( 127595 )
          The metal in the foil is considered toxic

          A bit OT, but I called poison control (and then the "animal" poison control...) a few months ago after my dog ate most of a CD-R, thinking the same thing. They assured me there was nothing toxic, despite my insistence that while I don't understand much physics/chemistry, I was under the impression that the recordable layer is some type of organic dye.

          I looked on the web at the time and wasn't able to find anything that seemed consistent about the makeup of the metal
          • So how's your dog? I'm assuming he didn't peg it so the CD recordable layer probably isn't THAT toxic, if toxic at all.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by horatio ( 127595 )
              Yeah, she's fine. :) The vet said the biggest thing to worry about was internal bleeding caused by perforations from the shards of plastic, but that wasn't an issue. I am a little surprised that the organic dye layer (whatever it is composed of) didn't seem to make her sick at all. Maybe I should start feeding her CDs I want "recycled" instead of contaminated off-the-shelf dog food.

      • "It annoys me so much that in a little flat country such as Denmark we can't figure out how to sort our waste..."

        You lost me here.....sort waste (trash)? You don't just throw it in the garbage can, and once or twice a week, the garbagemen drive by the front of your house and empty your can and haul it all away?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by KlaymenDK ( 713149 )

          "It annoys me so much that in a little flat country such as Denmark we can't figure out how to sort our waste..."

          You lost me here.....sort waste (trash)? You don't just throw it in the garbage can, and once or twice a week, the garbagemen drive by the front of your house and empty your can and haul it all away?

          Perhaps I should have written garbage, yes.

          Here, everything goes into the same (under-the-sink) trash can, then into a single-compartment garbage truck, to one garbage heap. It pains me everytime I have to throw away perfectly good alumim(i)um foil. As it is, trying to roll a ton of it into a big ball for recycling would only serve to make me (a) $.02 richer, and (b) a laughing-stock.

          OTOH, in Austria (or at least several parts of it) you are supposed to sort your garbage into separate trash cans for organi

          • Feel no pain. Raw material is cheap, your space and your time are not. I live in Manhattan and I am supposed to sort my garbage. It takes me an extra trash bin to do that, the space cost is gigantic, and it takes time.

            The reason behind this is that trash sorting is ideologically, not economically motivated. Governments play on guilt and obedience to keep people in line. If recycling were necessary because of some expected shortage, that would be reflected by market prices because speculators would hold reso
          • Around here (GA-USA) you have two containers, one for garbage and one for recyclables. The garbage company collects both, usually in separate trucks. Some have automated sorters, some have minimum wage employees, and the ones owned by cities sometimes have retarded people and other people who work as volunteers.
          • by jafuser ( 112236 )
            It pains me everytime I have to throw away perfectly good alumim(i)um foil.

            I can relate to the Al foil dilemma. I guess it bothers me to toss out something that used to be more valuable than gold.

            Just imagine 50 years from now when we're equally conflicted with tossing out titanium foil.
      • I wouldn't worry about it, all the smartest people in Denmark seem to be doing computer [] science [], which is good. (Somehow the latter page omitted Danvy.) I recommend outsourcing your garbage handling to a dumber country.
      • Denmark should do wha Florida does. South Florida is natually completely flat, but all around Miami, there are mountains with golf courses and other amenities on top. Guess why? My state hides its landfills between real mountains, but Florida doesn't have any.
    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

      Here in Europe, CDs are collected for recycling.
      Intact or destroyed? I wouldn't put an intact data CD or DVD in a recycling or trash bin lest it be extracted and read by unknown or unfriendly outside parties.
  • Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by gagravarr ( 148765 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:38AM (#18700815) Homepage
    Yes, you can recycle your cds. There's a list of places that offer cd recycling on recyclenow - t_be_recycled/compact_discs.html []
  • obvious (Score:1, Redundant)

    by scenestar ( 828656 )
    Use them as Coasters?
  • Microwave (Score:4, Informative)

    by tscheez ( 71929 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:45AM (#18700867)
    While this is not a way to recycle CD's, it is fun and will destroy the data on it permanently. Put one data side up in the microwave and run it for 2-4 seconds on high and watch the light show. (I wouldn't suggest doing this in a microwave you like, it *seems* to do no damage to the microwave but I can't be sure)
    • Re:Microwave (Score:4, Informative)

      by tsa ( 15680 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:06AM (#18701767) Homepage
      It sure makes your home stink like a hellhole. We tried toasting CD's in this way in the research group's kitchen once. The experiment worked out beautifully but you could still smell it a week later.
    • Open a window after you nuke them, the resulting smell is just nasty.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:26AM (#18701985)
      A few years back I had an "unwise microwave oven experiments" party. Large, powerful old microwave that was headed for the dumpster and a keg of beer, everybody brings something to microwave.

      The laptop backlight and 10" fluorescent tube were... bright. Like, searchlight bright. And strangely enough some of the most interesting effects were done with food, like split grapes and an unopened bag of marshmallows. We never achieved a stable plasma (we made some that lasted a few seconds, though) mostly because of the diffculty in controlling air currents.

      Anyway, we fried a lot of CDs, because they look tres cool in the microwave. My buddy Pete and I each got a slight whiff of the vapor produced by this (we were outside at the time) and it was a week or so before we stopped feeling the effects.

      • If you start with a stable plasma, you'll have better luck. Try a lit candle next time.
  • Maybe the CDs are unreadable now, but who knows in the future. Future archaeologists may one day discover the thick fossilized layer of AOL trial CDs that we have deposited and somehow be able extract the data, or even use them to fuel their flying cars.
  • Since our lawmakers are contemplating a law which makes it mandatory to take back your leaflets and flyers and whatever other RL-Spam you cram into the mailbox of unsuspecting and innocent victims, AOL might have some R&D guys on this.

    If they just stop sending me free coasters, I wouldn't mind either. The amount they sent during those last 10 years is enough for the next few decades.
    • Do AOL still do that somewhere?

      6-7 years ago I used to get dozens of ISP CDs from companies every week, especially AOL and CompuServe. I haven't had any in the last 3-4 years. Maybe it's because of recycling laws here in the UK. In which case you could soon be living a life free of AOL CDs soon too.
    • It was the end of an AOL recycling era when their software outgrew floppies. I will always love AOL for being an unending source of free, reformattable discs in the 1990s. Every so often I'd call them up acting like a computer repair shop and request a few boxes of DOS, Mac, and Windows kits, and hey presto, another massive stack of free floppies for whatever. They used good quality discs, I guess in order to survive being smacked around by mail carriers.

      The golden age of useful recyclable spam.. *sigh*
  • I can't remember the company or the project name, but back in the late 90's (?) there was a standalone drive that you could hook to your computer or another audio device, that would let you record something new over the original content of a commercial CD. The commercial depicted a teenager anxiously popping a new CD into his portable player in anticipation of some new band he'd heard about, only to be thoroughly disappointed by their music.

    How it worked or whether it was a hoax is anyone's guess. Goog

    • er, the product name, even.
    • I vaguely remember something like this as well. Of course, I never actually saw one or it's results in person, though.

      I'm tempted to say it was just a hoax.

    • How it worked or whether it was a hoax is anyone's guess.

      If this was real, then I'm going with what one other user suggested; it wrote updates to the hard disk (or some other reusable medium). I saw software like this for the Amiga. And although it's a useful idea in the context of its time, it's misleading to suggest that this is actually writing to the CD itself.

      If that wasn't the case, I'm pretty sure it's a hoax. Why? Because commercial CDs aren't like CD-R/RW; the latter have crystalline layers that respond to heating changes from the laser to form reflec

    • That's what you get for working from memory. There is a long story I won't go into about something Groucho Marx supposedly said on the TV version of _You Bet Your Life_ (for youngsters, it's an old game show he used to host) that, according to the story, was so risque that it immediately got the show cancelled on the spot or some such nonsense. I read a bio of Groucho and the only thing the author could find was that Groucho did a radio show of _You Bet Your Life_ prior to the TV show and this show was on
    • You can do this with vinyl records. Just take a pressed record and stamp it again with a new master. I have a record made with this method and the b-side is still the original recording.
  • by mqx ( 792882 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:05AM (#18701059)
    Depending upon what CD it is, and who the manufacturer is, you may be able to reclaim the license or a replacement CD. For example, you can do this with PowerDVD if you lose the license or the CD is damaged. Even if the software is not worth anything to you, it may be to someone else. If any of the CDs are for software of some original/current value, it may be worth taking the time to look into this. You could sell them on eBay for an earner.
  • Artwork (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:06AM (#18701073) Homepage Journal
    Shiny but useless CDs can be very useful for artists who need sparklies. Try sticking them up on your local Freecycle or Craigslist as a freebie, someone out there may be willing to take them off your hands.
  • Probably. (Score:2, Informative)

    by mythar ( 1085839 )
    If you live in Silicon Valley, you can check [].
  • Here's a few (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:16AM (#18701201)
    1. You can make mobiles for a baby - nice interesting colours one side, shiny reflections the other. Get half a dozen hanging up on a coathanger arrangement and you have one happy baby.
    2. Cover your walls in them. Either side will do. Good for students but abit sad for anyone else. Great for the 1960's Sci-Fi retro look though.
    3. Put them at the bottom of a fish pond. Nice reflections in the sun. Probably annoys the hell out the fish though.
    (Somewhat more 'out there' ones)
    4. Put them on your hub caps for extra bling.
    5. Dazzle muggers
    6. That trick with microwave ovens.
    7. balance furniture on uneven floors.
    • 4. Put them on your hub caps for extra bling.
      Wow ... just, wow. A whole new meaning for spinners.
      6. That trick with microwave ovens.
      That is an awesome suggestion. Except I did that while in high school one night in the industrial microwave at McDonalds and melted the plastic the cd sat upon within a second. One of those, 'I hope no one else notices' moments. The smell of the burnt plastic lingered for a while too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Detritus ( 11846 )
        The trick is to put a small glass of water in with the CD. That makes the magnetron happy. Put the CD on top of the glass.
    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )
      8. Signaling rescue planes with reflected sunlight. You can even use the spindle hole to sight the aircraft.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )
      Is it really safe to put in fish tanks? I thought CDs have chemicals like those dyes.
      • No idea - if they are toxic I guess that means the fish will be annoyed on several levels.
        Goldfish 1: I'm dazzled! Oh, the water tastes funny. Hi Goldfish 2
        Goldfish 2: Hi - hey, what's that bright thing?
        Goldfish 1: I'm dazzled! Oh, the water tastes funny. Hi Goldfish 2
        Goldfish 2: Hi - hey, what's that bright thing?
        Goldfish 1: I'm dazzled! Oh, the water tastes funny. Hi Goldfish 2
        Goldfish 2: Hi - hey, what's that bright thing?
        Goldfish 1: I'm dazzled! Oh, the water tastes funny. Hi Goldfish 2
    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )
      I did this with an old MS-BOB CD I got at a TechNet conference: []

      The horn-rimmed glasses on the yellow smiley face looks great as a clock.....or you can decorate it yourself with acrylic paint.... To top it off, I had a dual-CD case (the ones that would fold out flat, not the ones that resembled a book) and it makes a great clock stand.


      Off-topic, but who knew that MS-BOB was ahead of his time fashion wise...he and HRG from Heros would make a great duo.
    • by Deagol ( 323173 )

      5. Dazzle muggers

      Bully Blinders!

    • by jafuser ( 112236 )
      4. Put them on your hub caps for extra bling.

      Why stop at the hubcaps when you can cover the whole car []?
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:18AM (#18701223) Homepage
    CDs are made of polycarbonate resin, Recycling Class (7) that finds little use. See []and here [].

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wvmarle ( 1070040 )
      Let me tell you that polycarbonate scrap is one of the most valuable scraps around. As long as one keeps it pure! And even if mixed a bit and in big enough pieces we can sort it out in China.

      Scrapped, metallised CDs (no cases/paper/etc) at the moment fetch a price of about US$ 1,000 per ton (1,000 kg) in the market in Hong Kong, for complete loads of about 20 ton. I have half a dozen containers with CD scrap on the water on the way to Hong Kong at the moment. Good business.

      That said, the material I get is m
  • You cold use it as a hat in costume parties stays on without any glue. My collegue did that in one party and of course won the main prize with it :D
  • You could burn them, and let plants photosynthesize the carbon into wood. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to make water.

    You could even use the energy to propel you forward. n/1980-05-01/Ajax-The-Woodburning-Steam-Powered-Tr uck.aspx []

    Yeah, it's as niche as using cooking oil from restaurants, but it might work. And there is always the nice living to be made from saving those interesting things people forget they ever stored on those CDs from seeing the light
    • The cooking-oil-powered vehicles kick out exhaust that, at worst, smells a bit like french fries. The smoke from burning wood is mostly harmless if vented properly, and may trigger nostalgic memories of Winter holidays by granddad's old fireplace. The fumes from burning plastics are quite a different, and much more toxic, issue.
      • by alienw ( 585907 )
        Not really. It smells nasty, but if done properly it's not much more harmful than burning wood. The main problem is that plastics don't burn hot enough in a typical fire. If you build a proper incinerator (with forced air and so on), plastics are as safe to burn as any other fuel.
  • Giant Mirrorball!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We generate a LOT of CD and tech waste where I work, so we looked into this. Turns out there is a company that recycles all that sort of junk called GreenDisk, so I get a technotrash can every 3 months or so. Basically you pay $40 for a box that they send you, you load it up with up to 70 pounds of tech-junk, and then you send it back via USPS. They pay shipping on the way back (but I think you really pay it up front when you give them the $40 :-P). []
  • First thing that came to mind was attaching them to your car []!

    In Houston, I saw the Art Car Parade and someone shaped the CD's into the shape of fish scales. Gonna have to look for those photos.

  • AOL Throne (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iangoldby ( 552781 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:13AM (#18701827) Homepage
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned the AOL Throne [] yet.
  • entirely with junk CDs. It was very sparklely.
  • CD Lamp! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • The new in-thing for going to the disco.
  • Let's make a huge space mirror from all the old unused CDs on earth. Or maybe make that space elevator by stacking them. Or keep them as ammo to throw at alien flying saucers. You knew that you can only fight flying discs with other flying discs, right?

  • []

    You can use the CDs to focus the sun's energy to a point and make a solar death ray! It's fun- all you need is a little epoxy!
  • In most cases... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Amerist ( 183586 )

    Electronic waste is a huge part of our community in the United States and as a result a lot of recycling centers and other facilities have cropped up to try to handle it. Since I work for them, the first place I'd check to locate a facility near me is EARTH911, there is even a computer recycling section being floated right now: Computer Components Recycling [].

    In many cases they will be reuse and donation centers, or something like ACT []; in the end anything that gives these items a longer lifespan in the co
  • google (Score:2, Insightful)

    Surely searching for 'cd recycling' would have resulted in an answer to this question.
  • I have seen and heard of several people using old/AOL CDs to scare birds away from various vegetable gardens and allotments. You hang CDs from a tree/fence/whatever (or along a string between to stakes) by a thread through the centre, and the constantly moving rainbow patterns as the CDs spin in the wind confuse and scare birds. They reportedly work much better than scarecrows (most types of bird soon work out that scarecrows can't really move and just get used to them).
  • I've always wondered if one could use them as a roofing material (though fashioning a fastener for the rather large central hole would be a pain)

    A quick search on Google leads one to this page though: []

    where it has some information and lists two addresses which will take them to recycle (and CD-Rs has ~20mg of gold --- who knew?)

    • by ADRA ( 37398 )
      I don't know if new discs use gold, but the old ones did. Basically, the gold is what the laser was manipulating in order to make pits. Since gold is so mailable, i imagine that was the design reasoning for choosing it.
  • by Optic7 ( 688717 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @01:27PM (#18704791)
    The Technotrash can by Greendisk. []

    It's a box for any electronic trash that has all the recycling and shipping fees included in its purchase price. Total price is $30 for a 35lbs capacity box, or $40 for a 70lbs capacity one. Or you can get bundles and give them away as gifts to everyone. You can throw anything from CDs to videotapes to laptops to cell phones in there. When it's full, you close it up and ship it (for "free").

  • Something tells me that the value of the raw materials is much less then the cost to recycle. I bet the damage to the environment from TRANSPORTING the CDs to the recycling center is higher then the cost of chucking them in the trash.
  • If the CD contains copyrighted music, video, game data, or text that someone might want in the future, keep it, even if it does not play. I'll tell you why later.
  • Of course. Like all plastic items they are made of petroleum and so burn quite well.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"