What To Do With Old CDs

If you were an avid music fan 20-plus years ago, you may have a ton of used CDs lying around. My husband and I had SO MANY of them! I found myself wondering what to do with old CDs that we never use anymore.

With the advent of streaming services, many people want to declutter because they no longer need them. CDs and DVDs take up a lot of space and just collect dust if you aren’t using them. Most CDs are made of a whole lot of bad for the environment materials and sadly you can’t just toss it in the recycling bin and be done with it.

But before you toss those old discs in the trash, I will give you some info on how to recycle, reuse, and rehome your old music CDs. From wind chimes to selling them for actual money, get creative with how you clear them out of your house.

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old cds on a yellow background with text overlay 'What To Do With Old CDs'

Are CDs bad for the environment?

Compact Discs (CDs) have been a popular medium for storing and playing music, movies, and data for decades. However, despite their convenience and popularity, CDs are bad for the environment.

The production, distribution, and disposal of CDs contribute significantly to environmental pollution and waste. In this blog post, we’ll explore why they are bad for the environment and what you can do to reduce their impact.

Production of CDs

The production of CDs requires large amounts of energy and resources. The process involves mining and refining raw materials, such as petroleum and metals, which are then transported to manufacturing facilities where they are processed and assembled into discs.

The process requires large amounts of energy and water, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.

Distribution of CDs

Once produced, CDs are distributed around the world, often by air or road transportation. This transportation contributes to carbon emissions and air pollution, as well as the production of plastic packaging materials.

Furthermore, the production and distribution of CDs often involve the use of non-renewable energy sources, such as coal and oil.

Can I Throw Old CDs in the Trash?

The disposal of CDs also has a significant impact on the environment. They are made of polycarbonate plastic, which is not biodegradable and will not decompose. After decades in a landfill, they will break down into smaller pieces but they never truly go away.

When they are incinerated, they release toxic gases that contribute to air pollution and climate change. Burning CDs can release sulfur dioxide, dioxins, and hydrochloric acid into the air so do not burn them!

How to Recycle CDs

There are no curbside recycling programs for old CDs so you will have to get creative. To combat their environmental impact, many companies and organizations have implemented ways to recycle CDs. These programs aim to divert them from landfills and reduce the environmental impact of their production and disposal.

CD recycling programs involve collecting used or unwanted CDs, shredding them into small pieces, and recycling them into new products, such as plastic lumber, automotive parts, and office supplies.

Recycling CDs keeps them out of landfills, however, making physical CDs is still a popular form of music distribution today. Before you buy, keep in mind that each one made today will basically still be around in a million years, even if you recycle it.

closeup of a pile of old plastic compact disc cases

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Can CD Cases Be Recycled Anywhere?

CD cases are recyclable but not all recycling facilities will accept them. The best way to recycle them is to find a local recycling center that collects them, however, you will have to call your local waste handler to find out. CD cases are polystyrene (#6 plastic) so you will have to find a place that accepts that type of plastic. Of course, the paper sleeves are recyclable with other office paper and cardboard.

second hand music at a thrift store

Where can you donate old CDs?

Many thrift stores accept donations of old music and movies, such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and local churches. Donating your CDs to a secondhand store, you help them earn money and keep the environment clean.

In addition to donating your old CDs, consider buying used CDs instead of new ones when possible. This will reduce the demand for new disks to be made. Many music stores have a large selection of used music options, and you can even find them online sites such as eBay or even in your local buy-nothing groups.

In addition to giving all those old CDs to thrift stores, call your local record stores and see if they sell old CDs as well as new ones.

Hospitals and nursing homes may also be happy to give your old CDs a second life. Sometimes they will pass out old CDs with a Sony Discman or other type of CD player to give the patients something to listen to.

Finally, your local library may also accept old CDs. Many libraries have a CD collection that they lend out along with books. You will probably have to have the plastic cases they came in as well.

Finally, streaming music instead of buying physical copies is the most sustainable for music consumption today. Streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music are great ways to access and enjoy music without needing physical products.

Pile of old cds with hands exchanging cash in front of them

Sell them

If you have a large number of CDs that are in good condition, you can try selling them online. There are many online music stores such as Discogs or eBay where people buy and sell used CDs. This is a great way to make money from your old music collection without having to worry about finding individual buyers for each one. Keep in mind shipping costs to see if this is a worthwhile way to get rid of them.

You can also sell them in bulk to a local record store or music shop. This is a great way to get rid of your CDs quickly and make some money in the process. You won’t get a ton of money for them but every little penny helps, right?

pile of upcycled CDs on a table with a CD coaster under a glass of water

DIY Projects Using CDs

In addition to recycling, there are many creative and useful ways to reuse CDs. Here are a few eco-friendly ways to upcycle them:

Use them as coasters.

CDs make excellent coasters, as they are waterproof and easy to clean. Check out my DIY CD coaster tutorial to find out how to make them.

Turn them into wall art.

Paint or decorate CDs and arrange them on a wall to create a unique and colorful display.

Use them as bird repellent.

Hang CDs in your garden to scare away birds.

Make a CD mosaic.

Cut up CDs and use the pieces to create a mosaic on a picture frame or mirror.

Use them as reflectors.

Most CDs are highly reflective. For a safer nighttime ride, attach them to the spokes of your bike wheels to make them more visible at night.

DIY jewelry.

Make earrings, necklaces, or other jewelry pieces using CDs. You can use them as is, or you can cut them into shapes first.

Homemade Disco Ball.

Create a base by poking a hole through the middle of a Styrofoam ball and painting it silver. Then, cut them into pieces to act as mirrors. Next, glue the pieces around the Styrofoam ball with hot glue. Finally, hang the disco ball from the ceiling using fishing line or clear string.

Making homemade toy fish from the CD. Paper, CD, pencil, details on a blue wooden table. Handmade children's project. Step by step photo instructions. Step 5: The child makes the folds on paper

Kids crafts.

Old CDs are great for kids’ crafts… from bright yellow suns to scaly blue fish, get creative with your craft supplies. Let your kid make a dreamcatcher out of your them. Simply attach beads, feathers, and other decorations.

Make your own guitar picks.

Use a guitar pick punch to cut small triangles out of them and you have your own DIY guitar picks.

Driveway reflector.

Place CDs near the driveway or any other area that needs to reflect light. You can embed a post along the edge of the driveway to attach it to help you see where your driveway starts when it is dark.

Female hand holding CD

Final Thoughts

CDs are bad for the environment due to their production, distribution, and disposal. However, by participating in CD recycling programs and finding creative ways to reuse them, we can reduce their environmental impact and help protect the planet.

However, realistically, people may have hundreds of old CDs around that are still in good shape. If you aren’t into DIY projects, give them to your local thrift store. If you throw them in the trash can, they will never completely decompose in the landfill.

Want more ideas on how to declutter your home without creating too much trash? Check out my posts on stuffed animal recycling, repurposing old spice bottles, or how to cut a glass bottle in half with string for use in upcycled crafts.

6 thoughts on “What To Do With Old CDs”

  1. I read somewhere that grocery plastic bags can be knitted into mats for the homeless. Do you know of this and if so, can you provide the information.

      • I cut plastic grocery bags into a continuous strip, (after cutting off handles) just cut around the bag, about 3” wide. Tie together at ends, make into balls, and crochet bags, which are waterproof! Using different colors makes cute bags. Same idea could make mats. Very sturdy!


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