How to Recycle CDs & Tapes

As you transition your music library to MP3 or other digital formats, you may find yourself with CDs and tapes to recycle. Unfortunately, the recycling market for these products is pretty limited.

These media are made of plastic, but not the same kind of plastic as bottles and food containers. In fact, they are a mixture of different plastic resins. CD cases are polystyrene (#6 plastic), while the discs themselves are polycarbonate (#7 plastic). The casing of tapes is polypropylene (#5 plastic), and the tape itself is polyethylene terephthalate (#1 plastic).

Because of the limited recycling market for plastic in these forms, there aren’t many options for recycling. But instead of throwing them away, consider the following reuse ideas:

  1. Donate your old CD, DVDs and tapes to a secondhand store or music reseller for reuse. Even if the items are scratched, it’s likely they can be repaired and resold. This obviously won’t be an option if you’re getting rid of blank or burned CDs and VHS tapes.
  2. Use them for a DIY art project.
  3. Mail your media to a company like the CD Recycling Center of America or GreenDisk. Make sure to remove any paper sleeves, as these can be recycled with other paper. CD jackets are office paper, and VHS tape sleeves are paperboard.

Find a drop-off location for CDs and tapes near you using the Recycling Locator.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent CD/Tape Recycling Questions

Can I recycle CDs and tapes in my curbside recycling program?

It’s highly unlikely that your curbside recycling program accepts electronic media of any kind, even though they are plastic. Even if your program says it accepts “Plastics #1-7,” most CDs and tapes won’t be labeled and therefore don’t belong in the curbside bin.

How do I repair a scratched CD/DVD?

You can use a bunch of materials from around the house to repair scratches, ranging from toothpaste to a banana peel. There are also scratch filler kits available to purchase.

Why do I have to pay to recycle my CDs and tapes via mail-in programs?

There are costs with recycling any material, and with many materials, the cost is offset by the value obtained from the recycled product. With CDs and tapes, this is not the case. If you want to responsibly dispose of these products, you’ll likely have to pay for at least the shipping costs.

Is throwing away my CDs and tapes against the law?

As of 2017, no states have landfill bans on CDs and tapes, or their cases.

Where do I sell old CDs and tapes?

There will always be a secondary market for audio and video products. Your town likely has a local music store that buys music, or thrift shops that will accept them for donation. You also have online options like eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle. Keep in mind that the longer you hang on to your CDs and tapes, the more outdated the software becomes.

Additional Reading