The Greening of the Record Industry

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Companies around the globe are increasing becoming accountable for the ecological impact of the products they produce. If you really want to live green, I'd suggest you buy digital downloads, not compact discs as a rule.

The reason is simple. CD's are made from aluminum, gold, silver and nickel, two types of plastic created from crude oil, water, glass and dyes from petroleum products. All of these ingredients are found in nature, but once they are processed, they will not easily return to earth. They must be recycled specially, to avoid toxic landfills.

In addition to creating the disc itself, add the energy to produce the tray card, the inner booklet, the plastic jewel case and the shrink wrap that surrounds the CD package.

Once the CD has been manufactured, it's shipped by truck to a distribution center, where it's shipped again by truck to retailers for consumers to buy.

Now, a digital download does requires a computer, a modem and an internet connection -- but that's all. And though it takes a lot of energy and toxic materials to make the electronic equipment, these machines are used for many different purposes, not just for the playback of CD's.

Like the rest of business, the record industry has been challenged to make changes. Universal has developed eco-friendly packaging for their 60-title Millennium series and for their partnership with Wal-Mart. Sub Pop offsets its energy consumption with green renewable-energy investment, as does Merge Records.

And Warner Brothers Music, is developing their own eco strategy with the help of the National Resources Defense Council and Reverb, a nonprofit environmental organization for the music industry. Warners just announced this week, all paper products for making CD's and DVD's as well as their own corporate use will be made from recycled content and Forest Stewardship Council-certified vendors. The NRDC is also working with EMI Records on a similar initiative.

Now that online retailers have driven down the price of a download to less than $10, downloading music makes a lot of sense. Next week, I'll discuss how artists and musicians are supporting green practices at work.

If you'd like to learn more about CD recycling, please go to my webpage at

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

CD Recycling resources:
Always consider donating to your local library or sharing with friends

To dispose of CD's in Southern California:
Polysource International

To dispose of CD's outside of Southern California:
NESAR Systems, 420 Ashwood Road, Darlington, PA 16115 (724-827-8172)
MRC Polymers, c/o DADC Recycling Program, 3307 South Lawndale Avenue, Chicago, IL 60623-5007

Environmental Organizations:
NRDC, the National Resources Defense Council