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What to Do with CDs and Tapes: Recycling Tips and Tricks

How To Recycle the Right Way

Last Updated on October 19, 2023

Ever wondered what to do with CDs and tapes now that everything is available digitally? Remember the days when Blockbuster was huge, people would burn their own CDs, and everyone had Disney movies on VHS? Since most of our media has made the move to digital (hello, Netflix and Spotify), it’s rendered most CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes obsolete.  

That said, many of us still have collections of CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes tucked away somewhere. If that sounds like you, you might be wondering what’s the best way to dispose of them. Can you recycle VHS tapes? What does CD recycling look like? This post is here to help you know what to do with old CDs and how to dispose of them properly!

Photo of a CD with overlay text reading "8 Ways to Recycle CDs, DVDs, + VHS Tapes"

what to do with CDs

Well, this will vary depending on the state you live in and your local recycling laws. Most CDs + tapes will end up in a landfill where it’s estimated it will take more than 1 million years for a CD to completely decompose.  

Yikes! In a world where many of us collected CDs and had dozens (if not hundreds) of them, that’s a lot of practically-permanent waste just sitting in landfills.

However, there are a few ways to recycle VHS tapes and CDs. Here’s what you need to know about what to do with CDs now that you’re done with them.

what to do with old CDs

Many people wishcycle and toss their old CDs into the recycling bin, assuming it will be taken care of from there.

However, you cannot put CDs in the recycle bin, nor any other discs like DVDs. Your local curbside recycling program is unlikely to accept them due to most CDs and DVDs being made from a mix of plastic resins. So, what to do with old CDs if they’re not recyclable?

It’s always a good idea to check your local recycling laws. You can find them at your local .gov or local sanitation department’s website.

Most CD cases are polystyrene (plastic #6), while the discs themselves are typically polycarbonate (plastic #7). These are typically harder plastics to recycle, making CD recycling difficult. 

CDs and DVDs are also quite flimsy, thin, and small — they’d easily break or get lost in the recycling process.  

Eventually, most CDs will end up in the landfill or incinerator. And burning CDs can release harmful chemicals into the air, such as sulfur dioxide, dioxins, and hydrochloric acid.  

That’s because polycarbonate contains bisphenol-A (BPA), which has links to reproductive issues, blood pressure problems, heart disease, and early puberty. So it’s safe to say tossing them in the trash isn’t the best option for humans or the environment.

A row of VHS tapes in a post about how to recycle VHS tapes

can you recycle VHS tapes? 

Don’t put your old VHS tapes in the recycling bin either: the casings for tapes are made from polypropylene (plastic #5), and the tape itself is polyethylene terephthalate (plastic #1). 

Since VHS tapes are made of mixed plastic resins, and they’re smaller items, they aren’t considered curbside recyclable. They’d also break and the tape itself would get tangled in the recycling machines.  

However, you can donate your old VHS tapes to a secondhand store, like a thrift store, or give it to a friend. Even if it’s damaged or scratched, it’s likely they can repair it and resell it.  

should I throw away old discs? 

No, you shouldn’t throw away old discs unless it’s the last resort. Instead, donate your old discs to thrift stores or find music resellers who will resell them. This doesn’t apply to blank or burned CDs, which I’m sorry to say, don’t carry the same sentimental value to others as they may to you.

Stacks of CDs to illustrate what to do with CDs

how to recycle CDs, DVDs, and tapes 

Okay, so what are all the ways we can effectively recycle CDs, DVDs, and tapes? I’ve compiled a list: 

  • Donate your old tapes and CDs to thrift stores or music resellers. 
  • Sell them online or give them away in your local Facebook marketplace. 
  • Give them to friends and family members who enjoy collecting them or have the hardware to use them (aka DVD players, stereos, VHS players, etc.). 
  • See if your local senior center or nursing homes would want them. 
  • Use them in DIY art projects or find local artists who would be interested in using them in their next projects.  
  • Mail your media to GreenDisk to be recycled. Just make sure to remove any paper sleeves (these can be recycled with other paper). CD jackets are office paper and VHS sleeves are paperboard. 
  • See if BestBuy will accept your media — they take most electronic waste, both big and small. 
  • Terracycle has a storage media zero waste box. You can buy one for yourself to use or see if your local music/DVD store will supply one for their customers to use. 

RELATED: How to Recycle Cellphones + Why You Should


if you can’t recycle CDs, can you put them in with the general waste? 

When all else fails, and these recycling/upcycling opportunities aren’t an option, yes you can put CDs in general waste — meaning, with the rest of your garbage.  As stated previously, this should be your last option as these discs do not break down well in landfills.

what are upcycling projects you can do if CD recycling isn’t an option?

There are loads of crafts and projects you can use your old discs for! You can break them up and make mosaic mirrors or disco balls. You can also upcycle these discs into coasters or guitar picks!

Did you find this guide to recycling CDs & tapes helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Reuse CD/DVDs in the garden. Hang them on a string in areas you don’t want the birds in. The shiny side frightens them away.