Dealing with Dead Media
One problem with having an obsessive love of culture, be it music, movies, books, whatever… is the accumulation of STUFF. Stuff which, just as the sun sets in the west, will invariably become obsolete within a matter of a few years. Technological advancements (and the associated marketing by their makers that the ‘new stuff’ is better than the ‘old stuff’) means that every 5 years or so we’re switching formats. Vinyl records to 8-tracks to cassettes to compact discs to mp3 to streaming….(and back to vinyl, in my case). With movies, it was VHS to DVD to Bluray to streaming (with a pitstop on Laser Disc alley for me along the way).
It seems that in the last 10 years or so, I’ve spent an awful lot of time and garbage bags getting rid of yesterday’s formats that have piled up in my closet. The VHS tapes were the first to go; when the VCR broke down, it was time. The dozens of tapes I had spent a small fortune on, and countless hours recording and “dubbing” movies….. gone. Several large trash bags of memories, spools of poor-quality recordings of Friday Night Videos (we didn’t have MTV you see), and unwatchable (due to the dreaded “dropouts”) copies of Fletch, Three Amigos, Blues Brothers, and a thousand other 80s classics …. gone.
Next to go were the cassettes. Only a music lover who came of age in the 1980s will remember the hours, the HOURS, spent trying to get the highest-quality sound out of a Maxwell C-90 cassette. I couldn’t afford the Denon tapes, considered to be the audiophile cassette. I had to settle for Maxell, TDK, or Sony cassettes. I did spring for the “high bias” tapes, thought to have a higher audio quality than the lowly “normal bias” dreck. Granted, I had no idea what any of this meant. Tweaking the levels, making sure the Dolby Noise Reduction was turned on to reduce ‘tape hiss’…. my God, the kids of today have no idea how difficult life was in the analog 80s. Not to mention the art form of the mix tape; hours spent compiling just the right songs, in just the right order, to set a mood. Now, all of those cassettes are gone. So many labor hours down the drain. Or sitting in a landfill to be more precise. Heartbreaking.
The compact disc came along and was the savior of audio quality. The pristine digital audio. The indestructible disc. Bye bye cassettes. Bye bye records. By the time the cd era was over (I peg it at about 2001 when the iPod was born) I had amassed a closet full of about 4,000 discs. And today, they’re museum pieces. I never play them. I never look at them. All the time spent working to afford to buy them; all the hours scouring record stores (and Best Buys) to find them. Wasted? I wouldn’t go so far to call the effort wasted, as most of the music from those discs now resides happily on my computers’ hard drive as well as an external hard drive and somewhere in the cloud for safe measure. But the actual, physical discs? Unneeded.
Today, most of my music consumption comes in the form of streaming, downloads, and vinyl. I switched back to buying vinyl a few years ago after spending several hours browsing in a record store. I had forgotten the allure of the old-fashioned record store, but that’s a story for another day. The point is, the CD is dead.
I’ve been paring down my CD collection for a few years now, selling discs at garage sales and via ebay and amazon. It’s slow going. Nobody wants discs any more than I do, and few apparently share my eclectic taste in obscure artists and genres. So what the hell do I do with all these discs? And not just the pre-recorded CDs… I’ve got HUNDREDS of CD-Rs. Again, countless hours and who knows how much money spent making my own CD mixes. Jesus, I’m noticing a trend here. DON’T SPEND SO MUCH TIME CONSUMING PHYSICAL MEDIA !!!!
The question is, what do I do with all of these stupid plastic discs that I don’t want, nobody else wants, and that will sit in pristine condition in a landfill for thousands and thousands of years if I throw them away? I’ve already donated hundreds of VHS and cassette tapes to the enternal landfill, and I really don’t want to continue this unsustainable trend with all of these old discs.
I’m not artsy or craftsy, so using them in some type of art project isn’t going to happen. Besides, that really isn’t getting rid of them. That’s just moving them from their home in the closet to somewhere else in the house. I just want them gone.
After digging around online looking for solutions, I came across this organization called the CD Recycling Center of America. You see, our local recycling company won’t take CDs (or their equally annoying and unrecyclable plastic jewel cases). They have no way to process them. But the CD Recycling Center has a nationwide system of recycling centers that CAN process them. They’ve also got an easy and relatively cheap way to collect them. Their website lets you print a shipping label and packing slip as well as instructions for boxing up your unwanted media. You pay for shipping, and that’s it. Off it goes, where the stuff is ground up into a fine, almost powdery, plastic resin. The Recycling Center then sells the stuff to other companies that use the resin to make other plastic products.
Plastic is a nasty, nonrenewable material made from oil. One of the things I like about streaming and downloads is it reduces the amount of plastic used for CDs and DVDs. If a company is going to make plastic products (which i wish they wouldn’t), it may as well be recycled material they’re using. It reduces the need for virgin oil, and using recycled material uses less energy and water. It’s not a perfect process, but it’s a step in the right direction.
I’ll never get rid of all my CDs, or all of my movies on DVD. Those recordings or flicks that have a special meaning to me, or are collectible or not available online, I’ll hang onto. But the rest of them? The stuff nobody wants? It’s getting recycled.
I wrote a bit about recycling this stuff HERE.