• Playback - D'Addario's String Recycling In a Nutshell

    Playback - D'Addario's String Recycling In a Nutshell

    When D'Addario recently announced they'd met and surpassed their goal of recycling 2 million strings as part of "Playback," the world's leading string recycling program, we decided to dig a little deeper into the program and share that success story with our readers.

    For those looking for a better result than seeing your old strings end up in the trash, the program and act of recycling couldn't be easier.

    All it costs is your time to join Playback (part of D'Addario's Players Circle loyalty program) and their free postage option:

    1. Collect a minimum of 2 lbs of strings, pack them up in any receptacle you'd like, and print your free shipping label from Players Circle, D'Addario's customer program that rewards you with free company goods.
    2. Once your strings have been shipped, you'll be rewarded within 3-5 weeks with points through your Players Circle account.
    3. Redeem your points for D'Addario gear, swag, and merchandise in Players Circle.

    We spoke with D'Addario's Brian Vance about the success of Playback.

    The concept of recycling suggests old strings reborn as new.

    Most musicians aren't aware, but instrument strings, though made of a variety of metals, are not recyclable. Due to the variety of alloys which are plated or wound together in a string (which could be a combination of steel, copper, brass, silver, etc.), municipal recycling centers that handle bottles, cans and paper are not equipped to process strings. So, they go into landfill. There is no exact number, but D'Addario estimates that at least 1.5 million pounds of strings turn into landfill per year!

    Why create a string recycling program?

    D'Addario has a history of environmental stewardship dating back to the early 1990s when we pioneered environmentally friendly packaging. By creating a color-coded ball end system and putting the strings together in a corrosion-resistant, sealed bag, we reduced traditional string packaging (individual paper envelopes, and printed insert and outer pouch) by 75%.

    We estimate we saved more than 100 million trees since we started the new packaging format in the early 90s. For many years, mandolin players, due to the fact that the strings are loop ends, didn't get the value of environmental packaging format, but we've recently switched our packaging and use labels on the strings to identify each gauge vs. putting them in a paper envelope. We're hoping this new format goes over well and mandolin players will appreciate the new approach.

    The new package format also improves the life of the strings by protecting them from corrosion for long periods of time and players can now enjoy the benefits of our Players Circle Loyalty program since the outer bag has unique codes printed on them that can be redeemed for free strings and D'Addario merchandise, but I digress...


    Back to the question... why did D'Addario create a string recycling program? We make more than 700,000 strings each day at our facility in Farmingdale, New York. We've always locally recycled unused or scrap wire from our factory, so there was opportunity and use for strings.

    The problem is as it relates to instrument strings is that recycling is a business. There has to be big money in processing materials for your local recycling service to process the material. Strings, unfortunately, fall in to a category that is too complex to break apart and there's not enough string material to justify a facility or process to smelt the metals.

    However, we found a company called Terracycle that specializes in both upcycling and recycling materials that aren't processed by municipal plants or services. They work with many companies to reduce or negate their carbon footprint. It's a great story and a great company. Turns out, they thought we were a perfect fit and here we are.

    Together, our long term vision is we can create enough critical mass of string recycling that municipal recyclers wake up and see it as an opportunity and start allowing strings to be recycled. A lofty goal, but we're committed to it, on behalf of the entire industry. And, to that point, we take everyone's strings, not just D'Addario.

    Playback shows up at festivals and trade shows. What are some key events and festivals that have signed on?

    Earlier this year Playback was part of Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. This September you'll find our recycling containers at the IBMA Conference in Raleigh. We'll also have a presence at the Woodstock Luthier's Showcase in October, next year's Wintergrass and Folk Alliance in Montreal to name a few.

    We also sponsor string changing/recycling events on an ongoing basis. There is a calendar of these events on the Playback home page.

    How long has the program been in operation?

    We started the program in early 2016 and in just over two years, as of July 2018, we've recycled 2 million strings and the program grows every day.

    We already outlined how easy it is to use. What would you add?

    Join our Players Circle/Playback. It's free, all you need is an email address.

    Once you sign up and collect enough strings— currently, the minimum is 2 lbs, but we encourage people to send more at once to improve efficiency and minimize shipping carbon footprint — you can print a free UPS shipping label and mail the strings in any box to Terracycle at no charge. Once the strings are processed, you're rewarded Players Circle points or you can donate your points to the D'Addario Foundation, which supports developing music education programs around the world by donating at least half a million dollars a year.

    "We had been trying to find a way to cut down on waste in the shop for years, and the string recycling program became a perfect fit for us and our customers. Our shop has kept over a hundred pounds of strings out of landfill and D'Addario absolutely made that possible.

    Matt Kappenman
    Mass Street Music
    Lawrence, Kansas

    The second option is to find a supporting local retail store. Currently, there are more than 400 supporting locations around the U.S. We offer an interactive map so you can see if your local music store is a drop off location. The store then collects strings from the community and send them in.

    It's that simple. So, start recycling and help us meet our 2018 goal of 2.5 million strings, and beyond!


    Additional Information

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      D'Addario appears to be having issues with their web site at the moment for anyone using the links above. http://playback.daddario.com/ is responding but anything to the main domain is returning File Not Found - 404 errors.

      UPDATE: 8:10 a.m. appears resolved.
    1. Don Grieser's Avatar
      Don Grieser -
      This is a fantastic program, and you can also donate the player's points you get for recycling to the D'Addario Foundation to promote music education.
    1. Alfons's Avatar
      Alfons -
      I'm glad they mentioned local retailers as well - I take mine to Guitar Works Ltd in Evanston, as they've been supporting this program from early on.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Made my first string recycling deposit today at Mass Street Music. Got to see what 10 lbs of spent, recycled strings look like even though you can nowhere see the bottom of them in the recycling container. Impressive. The box that contains the strings is probably 1' x 1' x 2' tall with a slot for inserting strings.

      Attachment 169660

      Attachment 169661
    1. oliverkollar's Avatar
      oliverkollar -
      I've been sending my strings in for the last year and it couldn't be easier!

      D'Addario provides postage through the players circle program, just print it off, tape it to the box, and off they go.
    1. bluegrasser78's Avatar
      bluegrasser78 -
      That's a really great thing, I guess I'll start saving my old strings, if I would've started 20+ years ago I guarantee I'd have some serious pounds!