Environmentalists Condemn Disposable DVDs

Buena Vista Home Entertainment, a branch of The Walt Disney Co., introduced the “EZ-D” in September and now offers 35 movies in the format.

Consumers have 48 hours after opening the box to watch movies on the $7 disks before an oxidation process changes their color, rendering them unusable.

The disks were tested in four markets around the country, including Austin, where they are available at stores such as 7-Eleven, Walgreens and HEB supermarkets.

Local environmentalists protested outside one 7-Eleven in October and urged shoppers to send postcards to Disney, condemning the disposable DVDs.

They claimed some success – Robin Schneider, executive director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, said HEB instituted recycling facilities for the EZ-Ds in response to the outcry.

“The whole way the product is being marketed as ‘no returns’ is environmentally irresponsible,” Schneider said. “I’ve worked on many different issues, and I think this has been the easiest one to mobilize the public because they see the advertisements on television and see how wasteful the products are.”

Buena Vista officials said consumers will have a different reaction to the disks.

“We believe consumers will enjoy the convenience of a rental alternative that requires no extra trips to return product and no late fees,” Bob Chapek, president of Buena Vista, said in a statement.

Representatives of Flexplay Technologies, the New York-based developers of the EZ-D technology, declined interviews.

Buena Vista promotes the recycling of EZ-Ds on its Web site, including instructions for mailing the EZ-Ds to collection points free of charge. The recycling program is being handled by GreenDisk, a Seattle-based company that disposes of electronic waste.

GreenDisk’s address is included on the EZ-Ds, and people are encouraged to mail the disks using downloadable mailing labels that cover postage, said David Beschen, GreenDisk’s chief executive.

GreenDisk grinds up the EZ-Ds and ships the polycarbonate plastic remains to a recycling company for use in plastic products such as auto parts or appliances, Beschen said. He praised Buena Vista’s effort to recycle the disks.

“What we saw was a group of people who worked aggressively before they even put a product on the street to make sure they had a way to get it back off,” Beschen said. “That’s about all you can ask for in a free-market system.”

Beschen said he didn’t have numbers on how many disks have been recycled, but he said mail-in and bin collection started slowly and appeared to have picked up since Christmas.

At the city of Austin’s recycling center, home to one of two local designated EZ-D recycling bins, only about 10 disks have been turned in, said city spokeswoman Stephanie Lott.

Some retailers said Austin residents have been slow to latch onto the technology.

At a 7-Eleven this week, 11 EZ-D titles were on display next to magazine racks on the store’s front counter. Shift manager Rafy Hernandez said that shoppers have asked about the EZ-Ds and expressed concerns about their waste.

“I haven’t really sold any,” he said. “I would like to sell some so I could get some feedback from people.”

Jessica Felter, of Austin, stopped at the store for a cup of coffee but said she has little incentive to buy an EZ-D. She said she generally returns rented movies on time, making a $7 disposable movie unnecessary.

“For my husband and I, we would watch it once and that would be it,” she said.

Source: Associated Press