Recycling PC Components and Paraphernalia: Part 1 (PC Media Like CDs, Diskettes, and Tape)

I am a recycling zealot. In this article, and others to follow, I hope to show you some good reasons for paying close attention to what you can recycle, and how easy and fun it can be to do something that’s beneficial to this wonderful yet delicate planet’s ecosystem. I’m convinced that this behavior really “scales up.” For example, if just one more person shifts from tossing all their used floppies or CDs in the trashcan to keeping them in a box under the desk and recycling them properly, well then, that’s real and measurable progress.

I wasn’t always so zealous about recycling. Sure, I would dutifully put material into our local disposal service’s recycling bin, standard stuff like glass, plastic, and paper. Then one day I was driving around downtown Hermosa Beach and spied a large banner posted up above the street. The banner promoted an upcoming Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) drop-off event in my neighborhood, so I called the listed phone number and quickly learned how many other types of items I could be recycling: expired or unused medicines, batteries, household cleaners, art supplies, electronics, and many others. It was a revelation to me how pervasive HHW is, and how easy it is to properly dispose of it.

For a list of the types of materials considered to be household hazardous waste, along with detailed FAQs on each type of material, see the following page provided by the Morris County (New Jersey) Municipal Utilities Authority:

But I’m getting ahead of myself, since this article’s focus is on recyclable PC-related media: CDs, floppy diskettes, and other magnetic media. (I’ll cover other PC-related recyclable items in subsequent issues.)

For about a year I’ve been accumulating CDs–old CDs, outdated CDs, coasters, broken CDs, you name it–in a plastic box under my desk. I wanted to properly recycle these along with some old floppy diskettes and magnetic tapes that have been sitting in the attic for a few years. Here’s where I turned: GreenDisk, the makers of high quality recycled diskettes and CD-R disks. Not only does the firm manufacture recycled media products, it offers a recycling program for these media.

Courtesy of GreenDisk’s Web site, here are some interesting facts–some are SHOCKING–about what happens to failed and surplus diskettes. We throw away 3-4 million diskettes daily, which equates to 1 BILLION per year. Ouch. When sitting in a landfill, a diskette takes about 450 years to decompose, and while doing so threatens to leach oxides into the local water table. (I calculate 450 years at between six and seven generations. What a heartbreaking gift we bequeath to our children, grandchildren, and so on if we don’t arrest this squandering of resources.)

Here’s how GreenDisk’s recycling program works for end users and small companies. (Large corporations also trust their tons of expired and/or obsolete software to GreenDisk for recycling, including Microsoft, Boeing, the U.S. State Department, and the FAA.) You simply ship 3.5″ diskettes (they don’t handle 5.25″ diskettes), magnetic tapes, CDs, and videotapes to their recycling facility in Columbia, Missouri, paying a minimum $5.00 fee for up to 50 pounds and $0.10/pound over 50 pounds. That’s an extremely reasonable fee for the value of this service to our economy and ecology.

I personally just sent them a six pound shipment. I encourage you to consider doing the same with your used media. Thank you.

According to GreenDisk’s Web site, “The media is magnetically erased, fully inspected and evaluated. The disks and CDs are then disassembled and the plastic and metal components are recycled to make new disks and other items. The tapes are de-labeled, cleaned, packaged and resold.” As of GreenDisk’s second anniversary, it reports it has recycled nearly 20 million pounds of software materials and over 20 million diskettes. Furthermore, GreenDisk says it recycles or reuses over 99.5% of the materials it receives for recycling. According to David Beschen, President, “We degauss magnetic media at a level that’s four times stronger than the Department of Defense requirement. Our primary concern is protection of corporate and individual intellectual property.” Upon receipt of your shipment, an authorized GreenDisk staff member signs a Certificate of Destruction that states, “This certifies that all materials received by GreenDisk Services on [date] have been recycled in an environmentally sound and secure manner and the intellectual property contained on the disks, CDs or tapes has been destroyed.”

Beschen says, “We in the U.S. have been conscientious about how we recycle paper and similar products. At GreenDisk we think it’s important to make it ‘free and easy’ for folks to recycle computer media too. It’s also important to have recyclers deliver something back, as we do with our existing recycled diskette and CD-R disk products.” For more details about GreenDisk, see my supplemental page:

To find out where you can buy GreenDisk’s recycled CD-R disks and floppy diskettes:

If you have suggestions, anecdotes, or comments about the proper recycling of PC paraphernalia, I’d like to hear from you.