SAN JOSE, CALIF. - Recycling issues are not new to the compact disc industry, but only recently have come to the forefront as the industry expands even further into digital versatile discs, and as demand for recycled products increases. April 1993 saw the birth of CD recycling at two companies - GreenDisk Inc., headquartered in Preston, Wash., and Trotter Technologies Inc. in San Jose. Growth for both companies has been phenomenal, say their respective presidents.
In September, GreenDisk moved to a 25,000-square-foot facility, doubling its plant size. It also has a facility in San Jose, and plans call for plants in Texas, Georgia and Indiana. In Georgia, the company will operate inside a software manufacturing plant in a leased area to provide on-site recycling.
GreenDisk estimates that 98.9 percent of all materials it receives can be recycled, including the shrink wrap from CD packaging. The company erases information on used floppy disks, then prelabels, preformats and packages them for reuse.
Trotter Technologies, whose president Steve Trotter recently was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Software Manufactur-ing Association, already has outgrown its location and expects to move into a 100,000-square-foot building in the near future.
The company also has operations in Houston, and has delayed plans to open a facility in Boston.
Trotter said there are 2 billion disks purchased annually in the United States, with about a 10 percent return rate of new software packages.
Trotter recycled 20 million disks in its second year of operation. Removing labels proved to be the biggest challenge - Trotter has a patent pending on a machine that will delabel one disk per second.
Disks are erased - called degaussing in the industry - inspected, then degaussed again to remove the certification signal. The disks then undergo a final inspection and are packaged 50 to a sleeve and shipped to software manufacturers.
Booklets that come in the packages often can be reused by the software manufacturer. Those that are obsolete have the covers and spines removed, then inside paper is baled and recycled. Currently, Trotter recycles 1.5 million pounds of paper a month.
Trotter also takes in compact discs to recapture the polycarbonate. However, the company does not separate the PC from the lacquer and aluminum. Instead, CDs get ground up as they are, then sold as filler for resins used to make products that need rigidity, Trotter said.
Greenbrier Associates began in 1991 as a disk recycling brokering service. In 1995, the company leased a building in Billerica, Mass., and opened its own recycling service.
Ed McAdoo, Greenbrier operations manager, said the company primarily takes in CDs from the major manufacturers. Software companies have product overruns, rejects or outdated software that used to go to the landfill, he said.
``[Companies] are always upgrading their software, and every time they revise a program, all the other, outdated stuff is sent back to them,'' he said.
Greenbrier degausses and reprograms the disks in-house. It duplicates 10-15 percent of the reprocessed disks with new software before reselling them to its clients, major software original equipment manufacturers. The facility has the capacity to duplicate 50,000 disks per month in a 1,000-square-foot clean room.
A reprogrammed disk costs software makers about 60 percent of what making a new one would cost, McAdoo said.
Another advantage to software manufacturers is that there is virtually no fallout from bad product. McAdoo explained that normally manufacturers only check a small percentage of an entire lot of disks.
Greenbrier recycles all the packaging as well, sorting the various materials as it ``de-kits'' the package. McAdoo said the firm currently handles more than 1 million disks per month.
Resin producers also have an interest in recycling the CD plastics. GE Plastics of Pittsfield, Mass., has initiated a CD polycarbonate recycling program. CDs are sent to GE's Lexan plant in Mount Vernon, Ind., where they are ground up and metal and lacquers are removed. The remaining PC can be reprocessed and used in automotive, computer and appliance applications.
Metalized CD scrap prices currently average slightly more than 20 cents per pound, according to GE Plastics.
Bayer Corp.'s Plastics Business Group in Pittsburgh launched a program for recycling engineering thermoplastic resins, including PC optical discs.
Consumption of PC for ODs is expected to triple between 1994 and 2000, according to Patricia B. Etta, Bayer manager of resource recovery.
``Bayer's recycling program enables our customers to save on the costs of disposal and at the same time divert their waste to productive uses,'' she said in a presentation to attendees of Replitech International 1996, held June 4-6 in San Jose.
Bayer developed a patented OD recycling process that includes grinding, demetalization and cleaning. The strategy also includes buy-back deals with customers for metalized and clear production scrap, and unsold products.
Though the firm primarily is interested in PC, it will arrange to take polystyrene jewel boxes or polypropylene trays.