Friday, April 8, 2011


Three R's of CDs in the digital age: resell, reuse, recycle
by Ashley Cullins
April 07, 2011

Ashley Cullins/Medill

CDs can be used as easy, light-reflecting candleholders.

A cathode lamp is one of millions of ideas for projects made with used CDs.
Cullins -Etsy

"Kusudama is traditionally a Japanese art of paperfolding that results in a beautiful ball of flowers. This particular piece is a modern update of my own invention, utilizing a single hemisphere and repurposed CDs!" - Cybele
Cullins - Reckless

Ashley Cullins/Medill

Reckless Records sells used CDs starting at $1.99.
Related Links
CD Recycling Center of AmericaMRC Polymers, Inc.GreenDiskReckless RecordseHowEtsy - CybelesqueEtsy - Oddartist

CD sales slowed 12.8 percent from 326.2 million units in 2010 to 373.9 million in 2009, according to Meanwhile digital track sales managed a one percent increase that same year.

Not everyone has given up on CDs. “I really like listening to an album from beginning to end, “ said Beth White, 30, a lawyer from Ravenswood. “My primary source of music is my iPod, but there are certain albums where I like to listen to the CD or the actual album.”

But what can digital music junkies do with their defunct disks? Reselling, reusing and recycling are all viable options.


Consumers can resell CDs in good condition to stores such as Reckless Records in Chicago. The store accepts all genres of music, but the disc must work and come in its case with the original artwork inserts.

Customers can bring in any volume of CDs and the staff will look at the items individually to determine a value on the spot, said Robbie Hamilton, floor manager of the store at 26 E. Madison St. The customer can choose to accept cash or store credit worth an additional 20 percent. So if Reckless decides your Backstreet Boys CD is worth $5, you can choose $5 cash or $6 store credit.

Hamilton said the digital revolution has hit sales of CDs harder than DVDs, while the business overall has remained consistent. The collection at Reckless includes not only new and used CDs, but also vinyl records, DVDs and even cassette tapes.


CDs can be reincarnated into simple drink coasters and candleholders, or incredibly creative artwork and furniture. A quick Google search for “uses for CDs” generates about 80 million results.

Cybele, a single-named artist from Las Vegas, makes Japanese-style folded paper flowers out of maps and attaches them to CDs to create unique art. She has been making and selling them on for several months. “I saved all the AOL discs that our mailman used to deliver all the time,” she said. “I also use them for my Miniachair Tableaux.”

She recommended fellow Etsy user “oddartist” who melts down CDs and other media to create bowls and jewelry. features a cathode lamp made from CDs. It’s “a mod bluish torch with which any geek would be proud to light his mother's basement,” according to the website. offers instructions for making driveway reflectors, sun-catchers, clocks, curtains and chandeliers.


CDs and jewel cases aren’t generally accepted in community recycling programs, according to But consumers don’t have to choose between storing them indefinitely in a dusty attic and sending them to a landfill.

MRC Polymers Inc., 3535 W. 31st St., accepts "post-consumer" plastics, including CDs.

CD Recycling Centers of America in Salem, N.H., offers a mail-in option for consumers who can’t bring their used CDs to a local recycling center. The CDs, jewel cases and paper inserts must be separated and can be mailed in any quantity. There is no charge for the service, but the consumer pays shipping. The CDs are destroyed and new items are made from the recycled plastic resin.

GreenDisk considers CDs technotrash, along with VHS tapes, batteries, small electronics and hard drives, and also provides a recycling service for a fee. Consumers can mail in their used CDs and GreenDisk will erase the disks and rewrite and re-label them for redistribution. Fees are based on the content and weight of the items being recycled.

Next time you stub your toe on that box of long-unused CDs, consider reusing, reselling, or recycling them.

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