Master of Environmental Studies Capstone Projects

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Environmental Studies 2008.


More than 200 billion optical discs have been manufactured and distributed worldwide. As electronic storage media evolve, these discs are becoming obsolete. Most unwanted household discs end up in landfills or incinerators. Recycling options for waste discs exist, but public awareness and participation are low.

This study examines the possibilities for responsible environmental management of the growing waste stream of optical discs from households around the world. It reviews options for reducing materials used in disc manufacture, models for collection and processing of waste discs, and the differing policies and practices of various countries with respect to e-waste in general and optical discs in particular.

The study concludes that environmentally responsible management of optical discs is lacking in all nations, and that optimal implementation of best practices will require the cooperation of governments, corporations, and consumers. It recommends implementation of curbside pickup and corporate mail-in programs for unwanted discs. It also concludes that effective policy-making and process design will require more and better quantitative data about the efficacy of various regulatory models and responsibility structures, and about the environmental impacts of various waste processing and recycling methods.



Date Posted: 02 November 2010