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CDs and DVDs find new life and hybrid vigor hits the road.

How can I recycle my unwanted CDs and DVDs?

--Mike Wells, Oswego, IL

Compact discs (CDs) and digital videodiscs (DVDs) have become the de facto standards for media storage and playback for millions of consumers and businesses around the world. But the very popularity of these inexpensive five-inch diameter discs made of metal, plastic and dye is taking a serious toll on the waste stream.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, more than 45 tons of used CDs are discarded globally every month. Ironically, CDs and DVDs are made from recyclable materials, yet the vast majority end up in landfills or incinerators anyway. As with minimizing any waste, the three R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) apply:

For starters, consumers can reduce the number of discs that they purchase. Worldwatch suggests that consumers search online for information and media so as to cut back on the need for discs and to look for used CDs and DVDs to save both materials and money. makes finding and buying used discs directly from individual sellers as easy as searching its site. Also, many libraries now lend out CDs and DVDs.

For the discerning craftsperson or fun-loving kid, reuse means turning old discs into key components in any number of toys and decorations. Crafty end uses include turning them into disco balls by gluing them to a hanging ball, making drink coasters by attaching cork to one side, or attaching them to roadside fences or bicycle seat-posts to serve as safety reflectors.

Those looking to recycle CDs and DVDs have several options. The best deal financially is to sell your unwanted discs to retail stores that carry used titles. Trading with friends or co-workers is another waste-free option. NESAR Systems and MRC Polymers will take and recycle old discs at no charge (you pay postage) and use the raw materials to make new discs. Likewise, GreenDisk of Redmond, WA will recycle CDs and DVDs, as well as a wide range of other technology-related refuse, for a fee of 10 cents per pound to cover labor costs (again, you pay postage).

Lastly, consumers should ask to be taken off mailing lists that generate junk mail with enclosed CDs. CONTACT: Greendisk, (425)883-9165,; MRC Polymers, (773) 890-9000,; NESAR Systems, (724)827-8172,; Worldwatch Institute, (202)452-1999,

How do hybrid cars get better fuel efficiency than traditional cars?

--David Walley, Framingham, MA

Hybrid cars get better gas mileage and pollute less because their highly efficient electric motors run on recycled waste energy generated during normal driving. These cars have both a traditional gasoline-powered motor and an electric engine. Excess power generated by the gasoline engine is stored in batteries and used to fuel the electric engine, so owners never need to plug the cars in.

Consumers can expect to pay a premium of $3,500 or more for a hybrid. But as demand for hybrids rises (there is a long waiting list for the Toyota Prius hybrid) and manufacturers increase production accordingly, prices are likely to come down.

Despite the price premium, owners can expect to earn back the extra investment of going hybrid within three to five years through savings at the gas pump. High-mileage commuters will see their savings mount even faster. Also, the federal government currently offers hybrid owners a tax credit of up to $1,500, though this incentive is set to expire after 2006. And several states offer their own incentives for hybrid owners.

The first two hybrids to hit the U.S. market in 2000 were the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius, which claim fuel efficiencies between 45 and 60 miles per gallon. Honda has also introduced a hybrid version of its popular Civic model, and is soon to introduce a hybrid Accord.

American automakers are releasing new hybrid SUVs, beginning with Ford's hybrid Escape, which boasts 35 miles per gallon. Lexus is also offering a hybrid SUV, and a full hybrid Saturn Vue is coming. There's never been a better time to get behind the wheel of a fuel-efficient hybrid. CONTACT: Clean Car Campaign, (734)663-2400, www.;;

Send your questions about environmental issues, from the personal to the political, to EarthTalk, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881, or e-mail Please keep your questions brief. Include your full name, address and a daytime phone number.

EarthTalk is a nationally syndicated column distributed FREE to more than 400 newspapers and websites. Help get EarthTalk into your community by asking your local newspaper editor to visit our informational page at: Talk/Earth Talk_ letter.html.
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Title Annotation:Earth talk: questions & answers about our environment; Compact discs; digital videodiscs
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Previous Article:From the Sahara to the Gobi.
Next Article:A mighty wind.

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