How to Dispose Of CDs and DVDs?

CDs and DVDs were the main storage medium in the past.

But today most people have transitioned to flash or online storage formats.

If you have a large collection of CDs/DVDs, you should dispose of the products properly to avoid environmental damage.

Importance of Proper Disposal of CDs/DVDs

CDs and DVDs are made of plastic.

But the plastic is of a different kind as used in food containers and shopping bags.

The optical storage media is made of different types of plastic resins that are not biodegradable similar to other plastics.

A CD can take about 1 million years to decompose in the landfill. Over 5.5 million boxes of compact discs end up in landfills.

Every year millions of compact discs are simply thrown away. These optical storage mediums can cause significant damage to the environment when burned.

The chemicals released through the disposal of CDs/DVDs are detrimental to health. Polycarbonate plastic used in the manufacture of plastic storage contains BPA.

Studies have shown that the release of BPA chemicals in the environment result in abnormal brain development of the child.

Moreover, the chemical can also negatively affect the reproductive organs.

CDs and DVDs cannot be recycled similar to other plastics. They can damage the recycling equipment due to which most plastic recycling companies don’t accept compact discs. Due to the limited option to recycle, most tend to end up in landfills.

When put in an incinerator, they release toxic chemicals into the environment.

Some of the dangerous chemicals that are released due to incineration of the plastic storage medium include sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, and dioxins.

Over time the chemicals released from CDs/DVDs can leach to the ground.

The chemicals can make their way to the underground water resulting in polluted groundwater.

Also read: How to Dispose/Recycle of Old Computer Keyboard?

How to Dispose of CDs and DVDs Properly

Below are some tips to help you dispose of CDs and DVDs properly.

Shred Compact Discs

Shredding compact discs is another option to dispose of unwanted discs. This is a great option to get rid of discs containing confidential information.

They can destroy a large number of discs in a short time.

Shredding the disc can be a bit messy. The process can also be time-consuming. Shredding a single disc can take an hour.

Using cheap paper shredders is not recommended for shredding compact discs. They are especially not recommended for shredding discs containing confidential data.

The reason is that the data from discs shredded using traditional paper shredders are recoverable.

Compact disc tracks are 1.6 microns apart.

A fragment of disc that is 0.6-inch measures 4064 microns. This means that even a small fragment of shredded CD can contain a large amount of data.

The data is stored in an even smaller space in DVDs. This means that a lot more data can be theoretically retrieved from shredded pieces of DVDs.

For shredding highly classified information, you should buy NSA-listed paper and optical media shredder.

These machines can efficiently shred the compact discs into very small pieces with minimum mess.

But do note that the machines are costly. The cost of the machine can range anywhere between $3,500 and $6,500.

High-quality shredders also come with safety features that allow the process to be safe and clean.

Also read: How To Dispose of Floppy Disks?

Trade or Sell Compact Discs

If your CDs or DVDs are in good condition, you should consider trading the disc with others. You can trade video games, music, and software with your friends.

You can also sell them to thrift stores. The thrift stores are located in many locations in the US. These stores deal in secondhand goods including compact optical discs.

You can sell your CD/DVD collection to these thrift stores and get cash.

Some of the companies that will buy used optical CDs include Cash for CDs, Decluttr, and Eagle Saver.

Amazon Music Trade-in is another great option for your music collection. You have to search Amazon to find out CDs/DVDs that can be traded.

Shipping is covered so you won’t have to pay anything to dispose of the music collection.

The payment is in the form of an Amazon gift card that you can redeem to order goods online.

Also read: How  to Dispose of Cassette Tapes

Donate Your Optical Disc Collection

Yet another option to dispose of optical media is to donate them to charities.

You can donate the entire or part of the collection to local children’s hospitals or libraries.

Moreover, you can also contact the Salvation Army and Goodwill to donate your CD and DVD collection.

Also read: How To Dispose Of Computer Monitors?

Get Creative!

You can turn your old optical media collection into art pieces.

You can create mosaic patterns for mirrors, flower pots, and pictures by using small pieces of compact discs.

Making jewelry is another option that may should challenging but can be done easily.

Just cut the compact discs in a triangle or square shape, drill a hole near the edge, and thread it through a chain to create a necklace.

You may need to file the edges using an emery board to avoid scratches.

Your imagination is the limit when it comes to converting your compact disc into art.

Try different shapes and sizes to add variety and complexity to your design.

Store CD/DVD Collection in the Basement

Instead of throwing away your collection of CDs and DVDs, you can store them away in your basement or store. Consider packing the compact discs in cartons.

In this way, you can turn your home into a mini-recycling center.

This will also take the load off the few recycling centers that usually can’t have the capacity to handle large volumes of discarded compact discs.

Recycle Your Optical Media

Recycling is also an option to get rid of your CDs and DVDs.

However, only limited recycling centers accept compact discs.

Most will reject optical discs since their incinerators are not designed to handle plastics used to manufacture compact discs.

BackThru The Future is one company that accepts optical discs for recycling in the US.

You can avail of the free CD/DVD recycling service to dispose of your optical media collection. The company also your hard disks for recycling purposes.

The Compact Disc Recycling Center is another company that accepts compact discs for recycling.

The company was established in 2006 to offer education and awareness to consumers for recycling optical discs.

You can find out information on how to recycle your optical media collection by visiting their website.

Also read: What to Do With Old Headphones?

Tips to Make the Discs Unreadable

If you are worried that the stored data can be misused, you should make them unreadable.

In this way, you don’t have to worry about someone gaining access to your confidential data.

Here are some tips that will make the CDs and DVDs unreadable that you can safely store in your storage bin.

Cut the Disc In Half

You should consider breaking the discs in half to make them unreadable.

You can use a scissor to cut the disc. Polycarbonate plastic is surprisingly soft. You can easily cut the discs to make them unreadable without any problem.

Cutting the center part of the discs can be bothersome. However, you don’t need to cut the disc from the center.

Just cut the slits from the outermost edge towards the center. This will ensure that the discs cannot be read again.

Don’t try to cut the disc in half using your hands. The disc will shatter into small sharp-edged fragments that can cause injury.

Consider wearing gloves to avoid getting a cut when breaking the disc.

Scratch the Data Surface

Another tip to destroy the compact disc is to scrap the data from the disc’s surface.

Removing the upper metallic layer of the disc will make it unreadable. You can scrap the disc’s surface in many ways such as the following.

  • Use an abrasive scrapper to scratch the surface
  • Scratch the disc’s surface using rough sandpaper
  • Put the disc on the ground and scratch the surface with your foot
  • Use an emery board to scratch the surface
  • Use a disc eraser to put deep scratches
  • Use a key, penknife, or scissor to stretch the surface
  • Use disc scratching device such as Disc Eraser

Make sure that you scratch close to the center of the optical disc surface. This is where the volume descriptor is located that contains information about the disc data.

Avoid scratching the surface indoors to avoid inhalation of dyes and foil dust. You should do it outside to avoid any health complications.

Buy Plextor PlexEraser Device

Plextor PlexEraser can also help you safely destroy old compact discs. The device can quickly destroy a large number of CDs and DVDs.

A laser is used to remove the organic dye layer where the data is located. Using the device, you can securely erase 20 compact discs in an hour.


Proper disposal of compact discs is important. You can safely dispose of the discs by following the safe disposal tips mentioned here in this blog post.

Safe disposal of optical discs is important to avoid harming the environment.

By following the above tips, you will feel good that you are playing your part in making the environment healthy by properly disposing of the discs.

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