Sweet Briar College’s academic computing department recently launched a program to recycle compact discs and digital video discs that can’t be repaired or reused. The entire campus community responded and as a result, nearly 600 CDs or DVDs so far have avoided the landfill.
Buoyed by its initial success, academic computing is opening the program to the larger community by establishing public collection sites on campus at the main entrance of Mary Cochran Library and at the Sweet Briar post office on Chapel Road.
CDs and DVDs are made primarily from poly-carbonate plastics, which don’t break down easily in a landfill. They also contain layers of aluminum. Every year, millions of the discs are thrown away because, until recently, there has been no alternative way to dispose of them.
Fortunately a few recycling centers have sprung up that accept the discs and their plastic jewel cases. Sweet Briar has signed up with one such organization, the Compact Disc Recycling Center of America in New Hampshire.
According to the center’s Web site, the plastic used in compact discs can be recycled into a variety of items including office equipment and auto parts, helping to conserve the natural resources that are used to make many products.
Tom Marcais, a trainer and consultant in SBC’s academic computing department, says it’s best to take steps to reduce the number of discs we use in the first place. His suggestions include using DVDs, which store six times more data than CDs, buying CDs on spindles if you don’t need jewel cases for them, and using a USB flash drive for temporary storage or to share data from computer to computer.
“[Flash drives] are quicker than burning a CD and they’re reusable,” he said.
Recyclers such as the Compact Disc Recycling Center of America also note that reusing or repairing damaged discs is preferable to recycling. For temporary data storage, rewritable discs such as CD-RW and DVD-RW formats can provide much more usage, and are more cost effective and environmentally friendly then their single-write counterparts (CD-R and DVD-R). But when those options don’t make sense, it’s no longer necessary to throw unusable discs away.
Those who want to take advantage of the program can drop old discs and jewel cases off at the Sweet Briar library or post office. The College will pick up the cost of shipping to the recycling center.
For more information, please call Marcais at 381-6542.