The Explorer: What Do You Do With Old AOL CDs?

Some serious -- and fun -- suggestions from your fellow readers.

Fred Langa, Contributor

July 23, 2003

3 Min Read

More Inventive Uses
Everyone's heard of using CDs as coasters -- in fact, as I write this, my coffee mug is resting on the kind of CD "blank" (a clear CD, without the internal metal layer) that you get on the top and bottom of a spindle full of empty CD-R disks, when you buy in bulks of 100 or more. CDs as coasters are useful, but passé.

Reader Don Pooley let his creative juices flow a bit and generated these suggestions:

We all have a collection of useless CDs, and should be able to put them to some use. Their mirror quality alone is useful. Here's just a couple of things I do with mine:

  • Plug night lights through them to increase the light where I want it, and protect surrounding woodwork.

  • Lay a few on the ground under each tomato plant to reflect sunlight on the underside of leaves because many chewing bugs hide there as they don't like direct light.

  • Use as cheap reflectors wherever needed.

  • I imagine at this Christmas season there are countless places where they could add a decorative touch. And craft-makers and model makers should be able to come up with countless uses for pieces of cheap plastic mirrors.

  • Maybe someone could shingle a whole bunch together into a parabolic reflector as a solar heater? Possibilities are limitless.

  • Remember those old 78 bakelite records? We used to be able to bend them in hot water. Does anybody know how to similarly warp CDs?

Don's not alone in cooking up creative alternative uses. "Nikki" turns junk CDs into kitsch art, using the unwanted discs as components of holiday decorations, doorknob hangers, necklaces, and more.

Over at "Uses for Access Disks" you'll find tips for reusing CDs and floppies that range from the prosaically practical ("Table levelers -- slide one under a wobbly leg") to the colorfully impossible ("Collect so many as to create a gravity well and collapse the universe.")

Reader Derek Tam points out a site that actually ran a contest about reusing old CDs: the finalists include (among other things) interesting-looking table lamps, and an entire automobile covered in cut-up CDs, the surfaces of which act as a diffraction grating to give the car a silvery, rainbow-hued appearance.

Throwing Down The Gauntlet
So far, "101 uses for AOL disks" has the largest collection I've seen, although some of the items are (ahem) unusual. Example: "Use as a toe tags in a mortuary. Great for identifying dead computer nerds." Or: "Wonderbra inserts for that Madonna-techno look."

But surely, with the aggregate brainpower and creativity of readers, we can extend the list of possible reuses for old CDs. We may all end up more utility and less un-recyclable waste as a result. And who knows: We may just save New Jersey in the process!

Let's see just how many uses we can come up with! Join in the Discussion!

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Fred Langa, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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