by Christopher Walsh
Stiles, NH–For most audio professionals, burning a reference disc is a long-ingrained habit. Over time, the burning of a rough mix, or a set of reference CDs for clients, became irresistible, as a CD-R’s cost fell to a negligible figure.
Remember when your mailbox was jammed with promotional CD-ROMs nearly every day? When cereal boxes began to include a free DVD? True, MP3 files and downloading have begun to supplant physical media, a trend that will only accelerate. But untold billions of discs remain, and legions of computer-based or standalone CD and DVD burners mean continued use of discs well into the future.
Enter the CD Recycling Center, a free service founded by Bruce Bennett. The owner of the ADSG Family (comprised of CD/DVD replicators New England Compact Disc and SuperDups; American Duplication Supply; and online, on-demand distributor Discark), Bennett officially launched the CD Recycling Center on Earth Day in 2007, though it is in fact nearing its third anniversary.
“I’ve manufactured millions of discs for thousands of customers for years,” says Bennett. “I’ve seen how much waste can happen, from a manufacturer’s point of view and from the customer’s. As a manufacturer, I’ve always recycled properly, but it always killed me to realize that our customers, as well as their
customers, did not know what to do with discs when done.
“People, especially with the advent of CD-R technology, really seem to be burning through discs like scratch pads,” Bennett adds. “So I started a campaign that focused on three steps: promotion, education and collection. We promote ‘don’t throw away your disc, recycle it’; educate them why and how; and give them an avenue.”The public, by and large, does not realize that, as Bennett explains, “a CD itself, as well as the case, are made of two very dense, complex plastics. A CD is made of polycarbonate and the average case is made of polystyrene. In a nutshell, these are very high-grade plastics and can be re-used, especially the CD. Now, when I say ‘recycle a CD,’ a layman thinks, ‘you’re going to make a new CD out of it.’ But no, we’re going to salvage the plastic, and that plastic can become safety glasses, a fence post, an automotive distributor cap–it can be used as many, many things. Polycarbonate is one of the highest-grade melt plastics available.” Discs recycled by the CD Recycling Center have become products ranging from building materials to poker chips, Bennett adds.The benefits of CD Recycling, Bennett argues, are many, chiefly pollution control and conservation of natural resources, particularly oil. Most people know that plastic comes from oil,” he says, “but most do not know how much oil it takes to make plastic. I think after gas hit over $4 per gallon last year, we all agreed that we need to do what we can to conserve oil. By conserving and reusing plastic, we conserve oil. “The bottom line,” he adds, “is that we try to teach people to keep them out of the trash. If they end up in a landfill, they do not degrade. If they end up in an incinerator, you wouldn’t want to be smelling burnt plastic.”Participating individuals and companies register with the CD Recycling Center. When they are ready to ship discs, they are asked to notify the Center of the impending shipment via the website, and then send them. “We sort them here,” says Bennett, “and we export the plastic to countries that are looking to use recycled plastic, as opposed to new plastic, in the products they manufacture. Some electronics recycling companies that, for the longest time, were accepting discs with other e-waste charge by the pound. We do not.”The Center does generate revenue by offering destruction services for discs containing data and other sensitive content. “We charge a few cents per disc,” Bennett explains. “The caveat, so to speak, of accepting them free is that everything must come in unassembled. Not everybody’s in a position to disassemble cases and stuff. We charge a disassembly fee. That pays for the labor and makes some money.”For the recording studio official, Bennett suggests simply placing a box for unwanted CDs; flyers and posters encouraging recycling can be downloaded from the organization’s website. “All we do is ask studios to keep a little box, print one of the signs off the website, and every time there’s a mix they don’t like, instead of throwing it in the wastebasket, throw it in the box. Watch it collect in one month and realize how many you’re throwing away. When the box starts filling, put a label on it and send it to us. It costs a couple of bucks by U.S. Mail. That’s it!“It’s a good initiative,” Bennett allows, “but it doesn’t mean anything if people don’t take action. Every day, we get boxes from around the world. Unfortunately, there are enough people that know but don’t care to act on it. But I predict that within a year to two years, especially with the current administration, plastic media will be considered e-waste. People will still break the law and [discard them], but the people who are conscious will take care of it.”CD Recycling Center