It's not 'tech,' but it's cool: the Disc Eraser
The Disc Eraser renders CDs and DVDs unreadable for information security.
We editors and reporters here at Crave hear a lot of product pitches. Some are right up our respective alleys, but we have to refuse a lot of them for various reasons. One of my favorite refusals was when I had to explain to the nice PR man that I wasn't going to review his CD filing solution because it didn't require power and, you know, have chips in it. But I have to eat my words right now, because I finally opened the Disc Eraser device that's been sitting on my desk for months.
The Disc Eraser is a simple little plastic-and-metal contraption that puts a series of long gashes into the recordable surface of a CD or DVD disc. Just open it up, snap the disc into place, close the device, and drag the cutting tool all the way across. The result is four parallel cuts across the disc. When I tried it, the cut discs were unreadable by my PC's DVD drive, perfect for those backup discs you want to dispose of.
But why not just shred or break the disc, or use a knife or box cutter to scratch it? Disc shredders tend to be expensive and require maintenance. And in areas that require you to separate your recyclables, you'll have to painstakingly pick out the shards of plastic from the shredded paper if you use a combo shredder. Breaking or cutting a disc with scissors is also effective (and free), but personally, every time I do that, I can hear my mom nagging, "You'll lose an eye doing that!" (never mind the fact that I wear glasses, I still cringe every time). And it turns out that some CD recyclers require you to turn in intact discs, not pieces. Their processes can salvage some of the metals (including gold) and render the plastic disc reusable, which is far more environmentally sound than dumping CD shards in landfills.
A knife or box cutter can do the job, too, but you'll have to use a good amount of force to make the cut effective. From where I stand, sharp knife + slippery surface is a recipe for a trip to the hardware store for sandpaper and stain for your slashed up desk at best, or a trip to the E.R. at worst.
One caveat: the product Web site touts the safety of the Disc Eraser. It is, in fact, safe to use, if you use it correctly. But the four cutting blades are exposed when the contraption is open and easily accessible. Sure, the blades are tiny, but they're still sharp. So, you know, don't let your kids play with it. Still, it's small, portable, useful, and best of all, it's cheap: the MSRP is $20, but a quick Amazon search shows it going for $12. Mmm...words are chewy.