Recycling has been around a long time judging by the picture of marble building stones in Italy.
DVD cases are recycled but not in the way you think. The cases are first chopped up into a "grind" that is sold off as recycled plastic. The recycled grind can be added to virgin plastic to create a 50% recycled product. It is possible to produce a 100% recycled DVD case but it's very fragile and the least durable of one's DVD case choice. Special cases that are colored or clear use only virgin plastic so it's unlikely to find any recycled versions at all. Raw recycled product has to be physically moved around the country both on the way to the shredder and after it is recycled. This is why you don't see a lot of 'used' DVD cases or any other DVD packaging. The cost of collecting and shipping used product quickly reduces any cost benefit. This is probably the least understood issue with recycling in general. It costs more money to recycle and the recycled product can cost more re manufactured. What recycling does is limit the cost to the environment if done correctly. Recycled products require additional manufacturing requirements that may not be friendly to the environment. That is an important factor in a search for green CD packaging products.
Perhaps a more important and overlooked mandate is the actual manufacturing of new products in a manner that is environmentally friendly.
- Toxic wastes are not dumped into rivers and oceans.
- Waste is disposed of in a responsible manner using accepted disposal and recovery methods
- Emissions are limited or non-existent
- Factory operates in a "closed-loop system"
- Packaging does not add to waste problem by introducing non-recyclable elements
- Products designed around requiring the least amount of energy to recycle.
Plastics and paper made in the United States, Japan or the EU follow very strict regulations on manufacturing. Regulations can add to the costs of manufacturing and interestingly enough many consumers vote with their wallets by choosing the cheaper product made in countries with little or no environmental regulations. The green concern seems to be limited by cost so far.
Unfortunately recycling costs money and sometimes there can be actual savings, but that is a rarity. In most cases there is no monetary saving in recycling DVD cases, just the ability to be more Eco friendly. In order for the manufacturers to be successful in selling the green branded product consumers have to buy the eco-friendly product and not operate in a pure cost basis that encourages imported product (that well may be recycled) but at what environmental cost? One of our manufacturers is developing a "Corn" based resin that will be biodegradable in the land fill. The idea is to still regrind and reuse this material (it can be recycled) in new products, If this doesn't happen and the product goes into the landfills it will degrade. This kind of development costs money and requires a commitment from the consumers to re-use/recycle.
For the consumer there is no certification for environmentally sound manufacturing except for the knowledge that the U.S. has very strict regulations on pollution. Trying to trace the origin can be a very challenging task. Many items are just assembled in the US and not actually manufactured although almost all DVD packaging is made overseas in China.
An important lesson is it's great to have a recycled CD sleeve (or DVD case) but if it creates more damage to the environment when re-manufactured then it's not eco-friendly or "green".
flickr image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/people/gee01/