How to Recycle CDs or Use Them for Crafts

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

These days, CDs are a thing of the past—most of us are using music streaming services. So what do you do with all those old relics stashed in your basement or attic? If you're looking for how to recycle CDs or use them for upcycling crafts, we've got answers!

CDs can be trickier than other items to recycle, and sending them to landfills is discouraged. According to Back Thru the Future Technology Disposal, CDs and DVDs would take a million years to decompose! Every effort to minimize waste counts in helping to reduce our impact on the planet. With some research and a bit of effort, you can responsibly dispose of your old CDs.

CDs typically cannot be placed in your traditional curbside recycling bin. The same goes for the plastic CD cases they come in. (The insert paper is the only part that is recyclable through a municipal recycling program.) So, what options do you have?

Ways to Recycle or Donate CDs

When you're looking into how to recycle CDs, the best option is likely a mail-in recycling service. Check out Back Thru the Future Technology Disposal, GreenDisk, or CD Recycling of America. You will pay a fee as well as shipping for these mail-in recycling services, but you'll know that they are getting properly recycled and that the materials will be reused to make something else.

If you're looking for a free option, you could donate, but you may have a hard time finding somewhere that will accept them, since CDs are becoming obscure. You may be able to donate (or sell for pennies) to a vintage music shop. Or, consider donating to a used goods store such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army — just check with the location about what's accepted before showing up with your whole collection!

shelves holding colorful CD cases

CD Upcycling Ideas

If you'd rather not pay a fee for recycling, and your local donation stores aren't accepting CDs, upcycling is a wonderful alternative! With this approach, you use a material that would otherwise be thought of as waste and create something new with it, often a more useful and beautiful item. CDs are a great material to use for anything you want to craft that's shiny—such as mosaics or jewelry. They are also a great base material for crafts.

Before crafting with your CDs, be aware that they are made of plastic with a metal film that is read by the CD player. This film can be removed by making a slit in the shiny material and then pulling it off with packaging tape or duct tape. To cut your CDs to make something new, you can soften them by letting them sit in boiling or very hot water for ten minutes and then use strong scissors or gardening clippers to cut them into different shapes. If you are trying to be very precise, some crafters recommend using a Dremel, which is similar to a small, handheld drill.

Here are four CD craft ideas to consider.

Disco Ball

Make your own disco ball out of cast-off CDs! This can be a fun, reflective decoration to add to any party or groovy space. You will need to use a ball to form your disco ball around. This can be a decoupage ball or a no-longer-bouncy bouncy ball. To get started, you'll need to cut up your CDs, so use the boil-to-soften method. You can cut them into the same sized squares or free-form shards—both will work just fine! Then, use a hot glue gun to glue your shiny CD pieces around the ball. Hang your disco ball, turn on some music and lights, and get dancing!

Christmas Ornament

Puffy paint can really transform any material! Make an ornament to hang on your Christmas tree this year out of old CDs. Tape some paper or foil behind the holes of two CDs. Use puffy paint to decorate and fill in lines or designs with glitter glue for extra shine. When they're dry, tape a hanger to the back of one CD and then glue them together. Add a bow to the hanger to round out the craft.

Bunting Message

Create signs that say "Happy Birthday!" "Welcome!" or maybe even "Happy Earth Day!" to hang in your home for a special occasion. Use CDs as your base for your message and create a CD bunting. You can cut your CDs into triangles to make a more traditional bunting shape or just go with the existing circles. Trace shapes from the CDs on paper or fabric and then glue your medium onto the CDs. Write your message one letter at a time on each CD and then use duct tape to attach your CD message to some cute string or twine (bonus points if this is upcycled, too). Try both vertical and horizontal messages!

Stars and Moon Mobile

This easy-to-make mobile by NPS Crafts is another way to put those old disks to good use. Plus, the CD glimmer adds a perfect touch to any space themed kids' room. Cut two half-moon shapes out of CDs and then cut out an even amount of stars. This will be a bit trickier, as it's a more detailed to cut. You can trace stars onto the CD to give you a guide. Hot glue your stars together with string or fishing wire between them so that they hang on the string. Add some shiny beads along the string if you'd like. Do the same for your moons: glue them together with a string between. Put holes along the edges of another CD with a safety pin that you've heated with a lighter. Then, take all your stars and moons and hang them from the CD with the holes.

CD mobile

Are you inspired? Looking for more ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle? Check out the Thinking Sustainably @tomsofmaine Pinterest board for inspiration.

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Why It's Good

Upcycling, recycling, or reusing your cast-off CDs will lessen the waste in the world and help shift your overall outlook on waste.