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Labor of Love: Recycling CD-ROMs Abroad

By Jennifer Marty

Seems that anymore, everyone is doing it. And it’s happening just about everywhere–the office, in schools, at the gym, and of course at home. Recycling has become a way of life for most folks.

Yet for Matt Love of Washington State’s Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Engineering Publications Office, recycling has gone beyond paper and inter-office envelopes. It occurred to Love that each time his office issued a new Engineering Publications CD-ROM, the previous CD became a useless piece of environmentally unfriendly plastic to his customers.

It’s All Relative: What’s Obsolete Here Is Helpful Somewhere Else

Love also realized that although the older CD-ROMS were obsolete for his customer’s purposes, the information and examples on the CD’s could benefit people not doing construction for WSDOT.

"I first contacted International Programs and the Pan American Institute of Highways at the Federal Highway Administration, and offered to make the CD’s available for free distribution to their governmental clients overseas," explained Love.

His offer was met with enthusiasm and gratitude.

So in October of 1999, Matt sent out a new batch of CD’s, but this time with an accompanying letter requesting customers return the old CD’s. The response was overwhelming-- by customers returning the slightly outdated versions of the CD’s as well as the developing transportation departments overseas receiving them. To date, Love has received 922 CD’s (two editions). These returned CD’s are now being used in such places as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

An Environmental Plus and a Model for Others

"Matt did great work by looking not only beyond the department (WSDOT), but how our discards can help other people around the world. By not just landfilling our "old" obsolete Engineering Publications CD’s but making them available to others with less resources should be a model for the entire department to consider when trying to think outside the box to improve efficiency and reduce waste," stated Al King from WSDOT’s Highways and Local Programs Division.

Global Recognition

Love’s recycling project continues to receive recognition from all corners of the world. Under the guise "technical CD use program," Love’s project has been invited by the City of Stockholm in Sweden to participate in the Stockholm Challenge–the world’s only global contest of its kind for projects that show how information technology can be used to improve living conditions for people and strengthen communities. Love’s CD recycling program will compete in the Public Service and Democracy category and will be challenged by many pioneering projects. Winners will be announced June 5th.

Whether or not Love’s project takes the prize, one thing is certain -- the effort and dedication behind this project has made a positive impact on many lives. And as Einstein said, "Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who put them into action are priceless."

For More Information

Perhaps your agency or organization could recycle your out-of-date CD-ROM products to help others. For more information, contact Matt Love, Engineering Publications, Department of Transportation Building, Room SD7, PO Box 47408, Olympia WA 98504-7408. (360) - 705-7430, Fax: (360) 705-6861, or e-mail:


About the Author

Jennifer Marty is the Public Information Officer at Washington State’s Department of Transportation. Contact her at WSDOT/PO Box 47322, Olympia WA, 98504 (360) - 705.7079, or

May 4, 2000