As CDs are increasingly becoming a media medium of the past, the question now for many is: What do you do with your old CDs? Toss ’em? Can you recycle them?

CDs.jpg When I bought my first car, one of the features I insisted on was a CD player. How else was I going to listen to my favorite songs from Ace of Base, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey? These days a CD player is less of a selling point to a potential car buyer. With the booming popularity of digital music, CDs are slowly joining the likes of 8-tracks and cassette tapes as obsolete items. If you ready to dispose of your old CDs (and their bulky cases), you have probably discovered that recycling locations are difficult to find. Most curbside programs will not recycle them. Many community recycling centers will not touch them. If this is true in your area, you may have to mail your CDs to a recycling company. But here is the good news: A company may be willing to buy them from you or exchange them for a credit toward other goods.

What are CDs and CD cases made of?

CDs are made of a specialized material called polycarbonate plastic, which is classified as a #7 plastic (which includes all “other” types of plastic). It is recyclable if manufacturers can get it in large enough quantities. Some CDs also contain trace amounts of aluminum and gold, both of which are highly recyclable metals. CD cases (also known as jewel cases) are slightly easier to recycle. They are made of #6 plastic, also known as polystyrene or PS. Lots of common items, including toys, smoke detector cases, kitchenware, medicine bottles and anything made of Styrofoam (including packing peanuts), contain polystyrene.

Why is it important to recycle CDs and CD cases?

Since CDs and their cases are made of plastic they will not biodegrade over time. If they find their way into incinerators, they will release toxic chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide and dioxins. Polycarbonate plastic is thought to be especially detrimental to human health because it contains BPA, which has been shown to cause abnormal brain development in children and affect reproductive organs.

How to recycle CDs and CD cases

There are a few communities that accept CDs and CD cases at the curb, including Sandy, Utah, and Lincoln, Nebraska. However, you are more likely to find CD recycling at your community’s recycling center. Berkeley, California, and Royal Oak, Michigan, are two examples of communities that take CDs at their recycling centers. Be sure to ask if your local program will accept the CD cases as well. Some communities will not, while some places will accept only jewel cases and not their contents. Another way to recycle CDs is to get them to a company that specializes in recycling unwanted CDs. The CD Recycling Center of America is one great example. It accepts products from individuals, businesses and institutions such as schools. There is no charge for their services (other than the cost of postage to mail your materials to them). Check their website for packing instructions and their mailing address. There is one part of a CD that is easy to recycle: the liner notes. They are made of paper, so you can pull them out of the case and put them in your recycling bin before you dispose of your old CDs.

How to reuse CDs

If your CDs are still in good shape, you may be able to give them away or sell them to companies that will reuse them. Many thrift stores accept CDs. If you live in a large or medium-sized community, chances are there is a store that specializes in secondhand media like DVDs, CDs and video games. There are lots of ways to offload unwanted CDs online. DecluttrCash for CDs and Eagle Saver are a few examples of places that will buy your CDs. Amazon allows you to trade old CDs in good condition for Amazon gift cards. Check with these companies to find out their shipping policies. Some will pay for your postage; others will not. CDs and CD cases can also be used for craft projects. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration. You can cut up old CDs and add the sparkly pieces to candle holders, jewelry, mirrors, even homemade disco balls. Add stickers and use them for coasters, or add clockworks to make wall-mounted time pieces. Flashy CDs are also great for scaring away birds or other critters intent on pillaging fruit trees and vegetable gardens. The blog Crooked Brain has 25 great ideas for using old jewel cases to create things like light fixtures, seedling protectors for the garden and picture frames.

Protect confidential data stored on CDs

In the days before flash drives and the cloud (and back when Ace of Base was still a household name), people used CDs to store data. If you plan to recycle any of those along with your music CDs, check to see if they contain sensitive information such as personal details (social security number, bank information, etc.) or proprietary business information. If they do, make sure you send them to a company that promises to destroy them. The CD Recycling Center of America does this, but that may not be the policy at all companies you find.