What To Do With Old CDs – Your Eco Options In 2023

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Looking to downsize your CD collection? You may well be wondering what to do with old CDs without contributing to landfill. Whether you’re into heavy metal or classical music, don’t worry, I’ve got your Bach. Here are some of the best eco-friendly options for responsible recycling.

If, like me, you were a child of the 1980s or 1990s, then you may well have built up a rather weighty CD collection. Between the two of us, my partner and I have quite the collection from our teen years and our twenties. We then made the switch to digital downloads and streaming, and haven’t looked back since.

Admittedly, streaming music isn’t quite the same as pouring over the album artwork, or reading the lyrics. But although a heavily debated subject, streaming is probably better for the environment.

After all, CDs aren’t easily recycled. Each disc is comprised of mixed materials. These are difficult to recycle, as for most organisations it’s uneconomical to separate their component parts for recycling. And with all that plastic that goes into producing them and their cases, a small CD might have quite the carbon footprint.

The problem for former collectors, like ourselves, is what to do with old CDs when you no longer want them. After all, what was once music to your ears might now be cluttering up your home.

If you’re looking to recycle your CDs or pass them on responsibly, then I’ve got some eco-friendly ideas for you.

What To With Old CDs

CDs on a pink background, with a blue text box that says what to do with old CDs and eco-friendly ways to recycle them.

Currently, CDs cannot be recycled at home in the UK. This means, as tempting as it is, do not put them in your plastic recycling bin. Thankfully there are some eco-friendly ways to recycle your old discs.

Sell To CD Buying Sites

One of the easiest ways to pass on your music collection is to use a site that specialises in buying old discs for cash.

UK sites that buy old CDs include:

It’s never been easier to use one of these sites. Most allow you to download a free app, which you can then use to scan the barcode of each CD case. The app will then immediately tell you the price you’ll get for each CD – in most cases a few pence – which you can accept or decline. Once done, finalise your order, and box them up, ready for collection.

Do note though that the price displayed when you finalise the order may not be the amount you receive in the bank. Each CD is checked over and if any are found to be scratched or damaged, then these are rejected. This means that you won’t be paid for that particular disc. And, due to the costs involved, rejected CDs can’t be returned to you.

Don’t expect every CD to be accepted. Sites will often reject your CD because they have lots of a particular title in stock. Others have a minimum value of £5 that you need to reach – a surprisingly difficult amount to reach if some CDs are selling for a few pence.

So far, I have only used Music Magpie. My experience is that you aren’t going to get rich selling your old collection – we are talking pennies per disc. However, it is an easy way to pass on your CDs whilst putting a little bit of money in your pocket at the same time.

What Happens Next?

Wondering what happens next when you use one of these sites? Well, these sites then try to sell your CDs for a profit.

For those CDs that these sites can’t sell, it’s a mixed bag. Some sites, like Music Magpie, are quite opaque about what happens to those discs they cannot sell. I can’t find any information on what Music Magpie does with discs it can’t sell, or are too damaged to sell.

Other sites offer a recycling guarantee. Zapper, for instance, has a recycling feature that you can switch on or off. If you turn it on, Zapper will give you a recycling guarantee that means, if your CDs are not sold, they will be properly recycled. I haven’t yet been able to work out if you are offered a lower price if you select the recycling option.

Ziffit, meanwhile, is a certified B-Corp – a company that has been independently verified as having high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. Ziffit is part of a circular economy which means that no product is sent to landfill. This means it either resells or recycles every single item that is sent to it.

Related reading: The Environmental Impact of Music Festivals

Sell Online

Copy of Lauryn Hill CD in a cardbox box ready for recycling

Whilst these bulk-selling sites are good for passing on large volumes of CDs, if you have the time and patience, you could try selling your discs on an online selling site.

Some options include:

Pros & Cons Of Each Site

Different sites have different strengths and weaknesses.

Discogs is geared towards music collectors. So if you believe you have something rare this could be a good site to try. It’s not a place for more common CDs – for example, that copy of Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits that you’ve got hiding in your collection. However, that rare CD from an obscure 1990s shoegaze band could net you a pretty penny. Discogs takes a 9% fee – charged on both the item price(s) and shipping costs – so this is something to factor in.

In the case of eBay, you have access to a global market who are focused on getting the lowest price for what they want. You will have to pay a listing fee and/or a final value fee for each CD sold. Research what the same CD has sold for previously, and factor in the fees, to see if selling there would be worth your time and effort.

In the case of Amazon, you have access to a huge audience. However, you do have to sign up to be a seller. This costs £25 per month (excluding VAT) and doesn’t include selling fees you may incur. Unless you have a lot of CDs to sell and are confident you can cover these costs, it may not be the most economical place to sell your old CD.

Other sites like Facebook and Gumtree let you list for free. However, you are limiting your audience to your local area, as these sites focus on people picking up the items from you, rather than posting them out.

Give Them Away For Free

If you don’t care about getting money for your old CD collection, and just want to pass them on, then it might be easiest to give them away for free.

Buy Nothing and Freecycle are both sites that aim to stop sending valuable items to landfill. On each site, you can list items for free, for free pickup. You can also use Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. It’s probably quickest and easiest to box up your CDs and offer them in bulk, rather than listing each individually.

There are lots of reasons why people might want to take your old CD collection. People might want to listen to your old collection. They might have the patience to try and sell your old CDs. Or they might want to upcycle your old CDs for crafting projects or for making bird scarers for their garden.

Although CDs may not be the most popular way to listen to music, there is still a market for CDs. As such, some charity shops still accept donations of CDs in good condition. And who knows, that old Spice Girls CD single of yours might just be the one to complete a local fan’s collection!

Before you turn up with a large box of CDs, do phone ahead. Some shops may not have space for CDs or may not be accepting them for donation at the moment – particularly if someone else has recently offloaded their old collection.

Some charity shops, such as Oxfam, have a several specialist music shops across the UK. If you have one of these shops locally, then they may be more amenable to taking boxes of CDs off your hands.

Sell Or Part-Exchange At Your Local Record Shop

A CD store with racks of compact discs

Although record shops have diminished in number over the years, if you have one locally then another option may be to sell or part exchange at your local record shop.

Record shops tend to be quite discerning over what CDs they take. These shops know their customers very well, so specific artists or specific albums that they don’t think will sell may well be rejected. CD singles tend to be rejected as well, as the market for these is smaller. However, they can be a great way to pass on some of the more rarer titles in your collection, whilst putting a bit of cash in your pocket.

CD Recycling For Broken CDs

When you’re combing through your old CDs you might come across some that are broken or badly scratched. These can’t be sold, can’t be recycled at home, and are a little more tricky to pass on. In this instance, you may want to use a CD recycling organisation.

There used to be quite a few CD recycling organisations around, but most of these seem to have closed down. The only one I have found is Express Polymers. This business can recycle both the CDs and cases in what it describes as the most cost-effective, and carbon-efficient way possible.

As a commercial business, I would imagine there is a fee involved. As such it’s best to email Express Polymers to get a quote for the number of CDs you would like recycled.

The Bottom Line

Those old CDs of yours might be cluttering up your shelves, unloved and unplayed. However, your old discs could be music to someone else’s ears. Whether you sell them, pass them on for free, or donate to charity – there are heaps of ways to keep your old CDs out of landfill.

When it comes to broken CDs these are trickier to deal with. If you are willing to pay, specialist companies can recycle the old discs and cases into new items. It’s one way to ensure that your very favourite album that you accidentally scratched doesn’t end up in landfill.

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