FEW days ago, I went to the office of the Commission on Election (COMELEC) to submit my Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE). All candidates, whether winners or losers, are required to file this SOCE no less than a month after the election. One requirement is to provide a soft copy of all the documents. I submitted mine in a USB flash drive but it was rejected by COMELEC. They said that the soft copy should be in a Compact Disk (CD).

I thought putting the data in a CD was an easy task, but I was wrong. Computer shops don’t burn CD’s anymore. I went to National Bookstore, Pandayan and Expression bookstores, but they have stopped selling CDs. Luckily, I found a shop at the second floor of the City Mall in Dau that still have this item.

Is this the end of the CD? My laptop doesn’t have a CD drive, and new car models do not have CD players. Just like the cassette tape and floppy disk, the CD is on the way to obsolescence. It has been replaced by USB flash drives for data storage. For music, new digital formats like streaming, Bluetooth and MP3 are the norm. As far as solid waste management is concerned, this shift is for the better.

The CD is typically made from a combination of materials which are both non-renewable non-biodegradable. These include components made from aluminum, petroleum dyes, and polycarbonate compounds, which means that it is difficult to dispose of when it is no longer needed. If incinerated, it will release toxic dioxins. In landfills, they will not decompose. It is estimated that it will take over 1 million years for a CD to completely decompose in a landfill. Over time, CDs can release Bisphenol A (BPA), which can cause health implications in humans.

Added to the CD waste are the accessories that come with it. These include the plastic case, booklets, case lining notes, and other printed papers which will also become trash after use. By switching from physical to digital, the amount of solid waste that is disposed is reduced. There will also be less electronic waste. When there are no CD’s, there are no CD players to dispose as well.

There are technologies which can recycle CD elements into a form of plastic, but the process is said to be costly and not commonplace. It’s possible however for CDs to be recycled for use in new products. Specialized electronic recycling companies clean, grind, blend, and compound CD’s into a high-quality plastic for a variety of uses, including: automotive industry parts, raw materials to make plastics, office equipment, alarm boxes and panels, street lights, and electrical cable insulation, and even jewel cases.

There are arguments that say CD’s are better than streaming in terms of carbon footprint. It is claimed that on a per-unit basis, streaming has a far lower carbon footprint than any physical format. Estimates put the carbon footprint of an hour of media streaming at around 55 grams of CO2 equivalent, while CDs are over three times that. Thus, to minimize energy usage, put your music in local storage devices such as phones and computers which will reduce the need for streaming over distance from remote servers. Remember that digital platforms generate less solid waste, especially plastic.