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How to Recycle CDs & Tapes

How To Recycle the Right Way

Last Updated on January 18, 2023

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.  

How to Recycle CDs & Tapes

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.  

However, there are a few ways to recycle CDs & tapes. Here’s what you need to know. 

can you put CDs in the recycle bin? 

No, 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.  

That said, 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. 

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.

How to Recycle CDs & Tapes

what can you do with old VHS tapes? 

Don’t put your old VHS tapes in the recycling bin either: the casings for tapes is 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 music CDs? 

No, you shouldn’t throw away old music CDs unless it’s the last resort. Instead, donate your old CDs to thrift stores or find music resellers who will resell them. This doesn’t apply to blank or burned CDs. 

how to recycle CDs, DVDS and tapes 

Okay, so what are all the ways we can effectively recycle our 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

can you put CDs in general waste? 

When all else fails, and these recycling/upcycling opportunities aren’t an option, yes you can put CDs in general waste. Aka, with the rest of your garbage.  

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.