CD's consist of 99% clear polycarbonate plastic. The reflective layer, protective layer and screen print comprise the remaining 1% of the disc.
A disc is created from molten polycarbonate and digital information is stamped on the top of the disc, while it is still near melting point, using a die with microscopic bumps. These bumps are known as "pits and lands".
After the information is molded into the poly- carbonate, a reflective foil layer is applied using a process called sputtering or wet silvering. This layer reflects the laser back to the player, so it's integrity is extremely important. The layer is usually silver, but can be made of gold or platinum.
A clear lacquer coating is applied to seal the reflective layer and prevent oxidation. This layer is very thin and offers little protection from top side scratches.
Finally the artwork is screen-printed on the top of the disc.
How a CD is Made Video
Pits and Lands are imprinted into the disc to indicate a one or a zero. A laser beam is sent from the player to the disc and the reflective layer reflects it back to the reader and the ones and zeros are translated by the player. Record-able discs have a photosensitive dye type layer instead of the stamped information layer. This layer, when exposed to a certain light, will make an impression of a pit into the layer.
Re-recordable discs use a layer that allows the laser to polarize the
photosensitive layer back and forth between a visible pit to an invisible pit.