Though VHS tapes are not as popular as they used to be, they’re still used quite often and one of the most common problems is how to dispose of them.
These tapes have up to 1,410 feet of tape inside, which is one of the reasons they are so hard to dispose of. If you grew up around the time they were still widely used, you probably had tons of them in your basements or attics. Like cassette tapes and other old media made of plastic, there are not many places that recycle VHS tapes.
Why Is It Hard to Recycle VHS Tapes?
VHS tapes are made with two different types of plastic. The outer cassette is typically made of polypropylene (PP) or #5 plastic. The inside ribbon is made with Mylar, a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) type, or #1 plastic. The ribbon is coated with iron oxide and other metals, some of which are hazardous.
VHS tapes are difficult to recycle, not because of the outside casing but because of the magnetic media inside. The casing on VHS tapes is mostly made of No. 5 plastic or polypropylene, which can be recycled. On the other hand, the inside is mylar tape, made of No. 1 plastic, which is coated in an assortment of metals that are not so easy to recycle. It’s not that this mylar isn’t reusable; it’s just that no one really wants it.
Another reason why it’s difficult to recycle VHS tapes is because they’re not cost-effective. The same can be said when you recycle cassette tapes. Here’s the thing: the value of getting anything useful out of them is below the cost in person-hours required to break the tapes down for plastic recycling.
How Can I Safely Dispose of My VHS Tapes?
Because VHS tapes are considered e-waste, you must follow certain procedures to dispose of them properly. Throwing VHS tapes in the trash is one of the disposal methods that is prohibited in many states. At the same time, this disposal method is not eco-friendly. If they end up in landfills, the toxic metals can get into the ground and contaminate it.
Here are some safe ways to dispose of VHS tapes.
Recycle Your VHS Tapes
Some recycling centers accept VHS tapes. Call your local recycling center to see if they accept them. If they do not, ask for recommendations on where you can drop them off for recycling.
An organization willing to accept all sorts of old electronics is Greendisk. GreenDisk’s mail-in electronics recycling program is one of the best in the country. You can easily recycle your VHS tapes through them by packaging them up and sending them in. GreenDisk will collect your VHS and cassette tapes, erase the contents, and recycle as much as possible. Contact them and see how they work.
Many e-waste recycling programs across the country will also recycle VHS tapes. It may take a few searches and phone calls, but some may be in your area.
Repurpose Your VHS Tapes
Like most items, you can repurpose VHS tapes to achieve another function and keep them from ending up in landfills. All it takes is a little effort and creativity. Here are some ideas you might want to consider:
- VHS foosball table
- Storage case
Repurposing an item is usually a fun and fulfilling activity. You can do it by yourself or with friends, depending on how many VHS tapes you have and are not using anymore. There are a lot of free videos on YouTube that can serve as tutorials for you. You can check out How to Upcycle Old VHS Tapes on Youtube.
Donate or Sell Old VHS Tapes
If you do not want to go with any of the options, you can always donate or sell them. There are a lot of organizations and stores that accept VHS tapes.
One of them is Goodwill. You can look for the nearest Goodwill to you and donate your VHS tapes to them. You can also give it away on Craigslist or any free site. Many people are interested in old tapes, especially ones they haven’t seen before.
Another option is thrift stores. Thrift stores are widely known for accepting old vintage items to resell for cheaper prices. A thrift store is a sure way to give away the old VHS tapes you no longer need. Someone will see it and appreciate it.
You can also consider selling them. There are still a few people worldwide who love audio and VHS tapes as a recording medium. They might be interested in recycling your VHS tape collection as raw materials to erase, reuse, and recycle. Though you might not receive as much money from selling them, you’re sure to make something regardless.
You can put it up on Craigslist, eBay, or Amazon. Any online store with a wide range of customers can be a great place to sell your VHS tapes.
Though the stores that used to sell and rent VHS tapes are mostly out of business, you can still find music stores that might be interested in trading a VHS tape or an audio cassette for cash.
You can also consider giving it to your friends or people around you. They are people you know that might be interested in them. Old friends of yours who have a VHS player might consider taking your old tapes, especially if they haven’t seen that type before.
Safety Tips for VHS Tape Disposal
There are two ways to ensure your data stays secure when disposing of VHS tapes.
1. The first involves employing a strong magnet to erase any existing data on the tape. The magnetic particles on the tape will be scrambled and rearranged when the tape is exposed to a magnetic field, permanently deleting all previous data and rendering it unreadable.
2. The second approach entails physically destroying the cassette. The tape is placed in a device that is crushed into countless small fragments.
By using one of these two methods to get rid of a VHS tape, you can be confident that the material it contains won’t end up in the wrong hands and that your information will be safe and secure.
Your VHS tapes have taken up quite a lot of space in your life. Though you cannot simply throw them out to avoid creating a harmful environment, you can give those tapes a second life by selling or donating them or responsibly disposing them through a recycling service.