Media Recycling

Posted by: Kim Bischof on August 21, 2018

PRC is proud to offer a number of Hard to Recycle Collection Events throughout Allegheny County to help local residents responsibly recycle materials that are not accepted into local recycling programs. Over the last 16 years, PRC has worked hard to expand this list to take as many different materials as possible to ensure that is is responsibly recycled instead of placed into the trash or illegally dumped.

Each of these products have different processes to be recycled into new products, which is largely why they cannot be recycled with your regular curbside recycling. In this Hard-to-Recycle Materials Series, we will be taking a closer look at what happens to the products that you bring to recycling collection events! This installment will focus on what happens to the media, such as CD, DVD, and VHS tapes, you bring to our events for recycling.

Why Recycle?

Media cannot be placed in your curbside recycling, but they still contain resources that can do much more good if recycled than placed in a landfill or incinerated. Additionally, the coating on the ribbon inside of VHS tapes and floppy disks contains hazardous metals on the surface. While harmless in the household, these metals pose a serious risk if permitted to leach into water sources.

What is Accepted at PRC Hard to Recycle Events?

The following items are accepted at PRC Hard to Recycle Collection Events for a fee of $1.00 per pound of material:

  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • VHS Tapes
  • Floppy Disks
  • Cassette Tapes
  • Media Cases (You are not required to separate the media from it’s case, but it’s very helpful if you do!)

***Please do not attempt to take apart the materials. Leave the the ribbon inside of the VHS tapes***

What Happens to it?

CDs and DVDs are made from a combination of ink, lacquer, metal, and plastic components. The plastic polycarbonate base makes up most of the CD or DVD. The disks are shredded into small pieces. This ensures total data destruction and makes it easier for the ink and coating to be removed from polycarbonate material. The remaining polycarbonate material is can be used to make a number of plastic goods, including office equipment, street lights, electrical cable insulation, and many other materials! The picture below shows what polucarbonate resin looks like after being broken down and cleaned.

VHS Tapes, Floppy Disk, and Cassette Tapes are made of mostly of two types of plastic. They have a polypropylene outer shell and a polyethylene terephthalate inner film. The tapes and disks are shredded to ensure data destruction and the two types of plastics are separated. The hard outershell can then be recycled just like most other plastics. The inner ribbon must first be treated so that it is not longer toxic. Like many other forms of electronic waste, it contains so little valuable material, that recycles loose money when processing it. This is why it is fees are charged for recycling of VHS tapes, floppy disks, and other forms of electronic waste.

Media Cases are first manually separated from their paper inserts. The paper is recycled and the plastic cases are recycled or donated. The plastic component of a media case should not be placed in curbside recycling. The shape of the case can make it difficult for the machinery at a recycling facility to separate it from the paper, and it could get sorted into the wrong stream.


Where can I take Media for Recycling?

Please note, these facilities may only take some forms of media and there are likely fees involved. Be sure to always call a drop-off location to ensure that can accept your items before dropping off.

625 Plum Industrial Ct., Pittsburgh, PA

Evolution E-Cycling
2235 Mary St., Pittsburgh, PA

Mail-in program

Want to Learn More about Hard to Recycle Items?

Check Out other post in this series!

  1. Expanded Polystyrene Foam
  2. Tires
  3. Televisions
  4. Batteries
  5. CFL Bulbs