By Jeffrey Davis on September 27, 2011

Piles of old CDs got you down? Discover creative upcycling opportunities to put them to good use.

upcycle CDsWhy is it that the corporate world tends to lag so far behind the rest of our digital world when it comes to technology? Walk into most offices in America today and you’ll find antiquated computers, a mountain of copy paper and nary a wireless router in sight. But the item I’m most amazed to see still in prevalent use are CDs, or more specifically, CD-Rs.

CD-Rs were great for ripping and burning music for your friends in 1997, but their small capacity, delicate form factor and the lack of an easy transportation or storage medium spelled their demise. They were never good for the transfer of work documents, reports, presentations or other files.

Yet many offices still use them. Weird. Maybe the problem is that they can’t figure out what to do with the drawers full of CD-Rs they currently have on hand. True, the exotic materials used to make CD-Rs do pose a very real recycling dilemma.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to recycle CD-Rs, but you can you can also go one step further and upcycle them into a myriad of things that are actually useful.

Where to recycle CD-Rs

CDs and CD-Rs aren’t suitable for curbside programs, but there are drop-off locations that will accept them in many areas. There are also a handful of organizations that will recycle your shiny circular storage for you.

CD Recycling Center of America will recycle the disks for free (you only have to pay for shipping), and GreenDisk charges a small recycling fee, but accepts a wider range of materials. Either program is a great choice for recycling your CD-Rs.

Handy DIY projects for old CDs

There is no shortage of projects out there that do little more than marginally increase the amount of time before your CDs end up in the garbage., however, has a fairly comprehensive list of CD reuse ideas that are actually useful.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Garden pest deterrent: Run a string through the CD hole and hang it in your yard or from trees to keep birds away from garden.
  • “Scratch board”: Paint old CDs with either an acrylic or fabric paint. Then lightly draw/trace a design onto the dried surface and proceed to scratch onto the design (you can use a thick sewing needle, pencil or end of a small paintbrush). This removes the paint and leaves the shiny rainbow part exposed. Voilà, you have a unique “scratch board.”
  • Mosaic: Break CDs into small pieces and use as mosaic tiles.
  • Candle display: Place the CD shiny side up to sit small pillar or votive candles on. The reflection off the CD is great for centerpieces on buffet tables, especially during the holidays.
  • Christmas light reflectors: Use CDs as reflectors for Christmas lights outside. C7-size bulbs fit through the opening, and then put the light string on outdoor stakes and line a sidewalk — it looks really cool when it is lightly raining. Clear bulbs work best, but opaque bulbs will do.

What are some of your favorite ways to recycle or upcycle CDs and CD-Rs? Does your office still use them regularly?

About the author

Yo, I'm Jeffrey. I'm a blogger, writer, speaker, personal trainer, Web designer and wookie hugger. I'm the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Eco-Snobbery Sucks, co-founder and Senior Editor of The Fun Times Guide to Living Green,  the Green Tech and Green Business Editor at, and contribute to Mother Nature Network. And because I'm not busy enough, I freelance around other cool green websites, too. Follow me on Twitter or check out for more info about me.

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