Grrr, CDs Burn Me Up!

The problem begins...

The problem begins…

I am in the midst of an ongoing project to overhaul work and hobby space for Rom and me at home. I’ll outline the whole project later, but essentially; we are taking two crammed-full rooms and turning them into functional areas. As part of the re-purposing project, we are examining every item within, and deciding whether to keep, donate, recycle or toss.

I am in the later stages of going through my stuff, and I tackled the job I’ve been putting off longest – going through my media storage.

As someone who’s had a home computer since 1992, I’ve gone through every back-up medium in the past two decades:

  • Floppy disks
  • Iomega zip drive (short-lived system with high capacity disks)
  • Writable and re-writable CDs
  • Writable and re-writable DVDs
  • Flash drives
  • Additional hard drives for desktop computer
  • External hard drives
  • And my current system, a 1T network drive

My first order of business was to go through all of the non-music CDs from my home office cabinet.

A product I loved; a version is now built in to Windows

A product I loved; a version is now built in to Windows

About half were software installation disks, and the vast majority were for programs I haven’t used in years. So they were all put in the toss pile.

Link's fave game age 3, now available for Wii!

Link’s fav game age 3, now available for Wii!

Some were children’s games that Link used to play years ago, on computers that are now obsolete. They all had to go. Did you know that if you try to play a very old CD game on a new computer, the new PC runs so fast that you can’t even play the game? Not so much a factor on educational games, but anything with speed involved! So unless you’ve saved an old working computer to play the old games, they’re kaput. (You can run an emulator if you are tech-savvy). Also, a lot of games previously on CD are still available now for gaming systems or on Facebook!

Burned data CDs

Burned data CDs

The largest pile I had was burned CDs. Almost all of them were back-ups of music, photos, personal finance data, and documents. Before having access to huge hard drives, I backed up files onto multi-disk sets regularly. I divided them into 2 piles – with and without personal content.

I have a super-crunchy shredder which will shred CDs, so I was going to put the ones with confidential data through the shredder. However, I just finished reading the book My Plastic- Free Life, and it gave me pause. All those tiny plastic fragments would be far worse for the environment than intact CDs. But I did want to protect my data. So I decided I would simply break them in half and throw them away.

Don't do this - recycle instead!

Don’t do this!

Impossible to clean up bits

Impossible to clean up bits

Easier said than done! Some of the discs were so plasticky and flexible that I couldn’t break them. Others shattered and sent shards flying all over the room. I ended up with cuts on my hands, and had to protect my face. Then I got worried that my cats would play with the shiny pieces and eat them. I took a break and vacuumed up the room. I could see that the CD materials were separating, leaving staticky bits of plastic film everywhere, similar to Christmas tree tinsel. I ended up having to damp-mop, like you do when you’ve broken a glass in the kitchen and you need to clean up every sliver.

OK to Recycle!

OK to Recycle!

Finally I got a brain and became convinced there must be a better way. I checked online for options, and would you believe, every Best Buy store in Canada accepts CDs and DVDs for recycling!! Thankfully I had not destroyed them all, and had a huge stack I could still bring in for recycling. All you have to do to protect your data is to scratch or cut the CDs so they’re unreadable.

I had been absolutely convinced that CDs and DVDs were not recyclable.

After this experience, I can’t imagine ever buying another CD. I feel they are environmentally devastating!

All of my other back-up systems have become obsolete, leading me to get rid of all the old media and the equipment to go with them. (Luckily almost all electronics are recyclable). My network drive is still going strong, but when it goes, the clear answer from an environmental perspective is to use cloud storage, and budget for the cost.

I hope you will learn from my mistakes and not try to break or shred CDs!


  1. Thanks for the information, I didn’t know we could recycle CD or DVDs instead I have been letting the children play with them, paint them or take them outside to use for plates when they “cook” with the dirt and weeds.

    • Re-purposing is great, too! I might have donated some to a childcare centre for their crafts, if they didn’t have my photos and financial data on them 🙂

  2. I had no idea that CDs were recyclable. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. I always thought that you could just delete the content from the CD and then you have a clean one to re-use, re-cycle or re-purpose?

  4. It took me AGES to find a place that would take CDs here in Sydney, Australia, but I found it. Lovely (cute) guy works there, and it’s ‘on my way home’ (it’s in a super busy area, so it’s nice I can jump out quickly). I do hate CDs though, along with their sleeves/cases. Just no good home for the plasticy-ness!

  5. Pingback: Friday Faves, January 18th | livingsimplyfree

  6. With the release of IsoBuster 3.1 we were able to make an even faster and more efficient data recovery tool that, besides optical media (CD, DVD and BD), also supports Flash drives, Hard Drives, Memory cards of all sorts and makes.

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