Dear Recyclebank: I have a stack of floppies that I refuse to throw away, but don’t really want to save for posterity. How and where can I safely dispose of them? –Marjorie E.
Dear Marjorie: You’re not alone if you have a stash of obsolete technology hidden away somewhere. We understand your concerns about disposing of old floppy disks — you don’t want the information on them to get into the wrong hands and you want the materials to be discarded responsibly.
The first thing to do with those old disks is to make sure to recover, store, and remove the information stored on them. If you still have a floppy disk drive, you can simply drag the files onto your desktop or transfer them to a USB drive. If you don’t, you can send them to a service like Floppydisk.com. In addition to transferring your data, Floppydisk.com can actually recycle floppy disks and zip disks, a service not many companies offer. According to Tom Persky, President of Floppydisk.com, when disks are sent to them for recycling, the company erases any old data and reformats the disks for use. They’re then relabeled and sold. (That’s right, that means some organizations actually still use floppy disks to store data, including the US government.)
If you don’t need the file transfer service, Floppydisk.com also accepts disks just for recycling, and will even pay for your shipping if you send more than 200 at once. Persky says they receive approximately 250,000 disks a year. Roughly 80 percent of the floppy disks and zip disks they receive can be reused, and the 20 percent that fail the reformatting process are sold for art projects or for promotional use.
Greendisk.com also got its start recycling floppy disks. Founded in the ‘90s, Greendisk.com began collecting overages of software floppies and reformatting them to be sold as recycled diskettes. Mickey Friedman, COO, still receives disks for recycling today, although now he forwards them on to another recycler. As for actually recycling the material components of a floppy disk, Friedman says it’s a difficult and expensive process. The outer shell is ABS plastic, a material that has dropped in value as a commodity, and the inside is magnetic media, as well as several other components.
Much easier to recycle is another somewhat obsolete electronic storage unit that you might have lying around: CDs. Friedman says CDs are made of polycarbonate with metals and paint. They can be ground up and cleaned so that pure polycarbonate remains, ready to use to make something else.
Ultimately, if you have floppy disks or CDs, they don’t have to clutter up your desk drawers anymore. You can mail them to one of these recycling services or find a local recycling facility that accepts e-waste. Or, if you’re crafty, turn them into a cute project, like a pen holder or a bag.