The VHS and Cassette Tape Recycling Dilemma

Ah, nostalgia. Remember putting on those neon pink legwarmers or rolling up the sleeves on your white blazer and rocking out to that Poison cassette tape? Or pressing record on your VCR to catch the latest episode of “Charles in Charge”?

Obsolete audio cassette tapes and VHS tapes pose a problem for many recyclers. Photo: Kirill Reinhart Find a location to recycle VHS tapes in your area here.

Obsolete audio cassette tapes and VHS tapes pose a problem for many recyclers. Photo: Kirill Reinhart

Come to think of it, you probably have that Poison cassette and a slew of old VHS tapes somewhere right now, don’t you?

All of these obsolete VHS tapes and audio cassette tapes, collectively called magnetic media, are actually a huge waste problem.

Why is it so difficult to recycle VHS tapes?

“One of the bigger problems is that there’s this massive amount of VHS tapes (and magnetic media) and there really isn’t a great solution for recycling them,” says Mickey Friedman, COO for GreenDisk, one of the largest e-waste recyclers in the U.S.

Friedman says it’s been hard for the company to recycle all of the pieces associated with magnetic media.

What are VHS Tapes made from?

“The outside casing is made from different types of plastic and that can be recycled; it’s the Mylar tape that really can’t be,” he says. “We do about as good as you can.”

The outside case of the VHS tapes is made from #5 plastic (Polypropylene). The tape inside is made from #1 plastic but is coated in a few different metals, making it difficult to recycle. The Mylar tape is actually hazardous due to the metals on it’s surface.

Friedman says products with profitable metals, like cell phones and computers, are often easier to find recyclers for, because of the money that can be made from the materials. Magnetic media just doesn’t contain enough valuable components to make recycling them worthwhile.

While it’s been hard to recycle the magnetic tape in VHS tapes on a large scale, Friedman says that they’ve had success in the past with boutique solutions like individuals creating bags or decorative items.


How to Reuse VHS Tapes

For instance, RecycleCindy of MyRecycledBags.com, which is dedicated to crafting with recycled materials, crochets purses and tote bags using VHS and cassette tape. She even tells you how to create them on your own, or you can purchase one on her website.

There are also a number of artful ways you can reuse VHS and cassette tapes, such as wallets, bracelets, lamps or ribbon on gifts.

If you’re not that crafty, GreenDisk will collect your VHS and cassette tapes, erase the contents and recycle as much as possible through two recycling options. For those with a lot of e-waste, Technotrash Cans are available in different sizes and include prepaid shipping, or you can ship GreenDisk materials on your own and pay the shipping.

Either way, it’s important to dispose of magnetic media properly. Otherwise, as Friedman says, you’re just “putting plastic which doesn’t degrade very well into landfills, which takes hundreds of years to degrade.”


How to Recycle VHS Tapes

Step 1: Find an ewaste recycler in your area using the Earth911 recycling search.
Step 2: Call and ask if they accept VHS tapes because their policies are changing all the time.
Step 3: If there are no ewaste recyclers in your area visit Greendisk.com
Step 4: Package all of your VHS tapes in a box and mail them to GreenDisk.

Many ewaste recycling programs across the country will actually recycle VHS tapes as well. It may take a few searches and phone calls but there may be someone in you area. You can click the botton below to go to the Earth911 recycling search to find an ewaste recycler in your area.

If there isn’t a recycling solution for VHS tapes in your area you can mail them in to Green Disk. Green Disk’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. You can grab their address here.

Click Here for a Tape Recycling Location Near You

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Comments

  1. I try to recycle my old video and cassette tapes by sending them to ACT in Missouri. Other locations do recycle them. Besides households, many libraries, schools, and other institutions have collections they are getting rid of. They should be recycling them and not disposing them in the trash. But with budget cutbacks, it is cheaper to throw them out instad of recycling them. Any solutions ?

  2. Great Article!

    I’m sitting on many VHS Tapes with no place for them to go yet. I don’t want to dump them since I don’t feel that it would be the most responsible way to deal with them. I’m totally in agreement with the thinking that this form of magnetic media needs to be disposed of properly so I won’t be dumping them into the garbage any time soon.

    Thank you Megan!

  3. Since posting on December 30th, I have found information that there are toxic chemicals on the tape and I will not be using it. Thanks.

  4. Tj’s Recycling in Va will recycle the vhs tapes. They use every part of the vhs tape. See the latest items that started out as vhs tapes on BeGreenMinded.com . They even used the little parts from the inside to make decorative wind mobiles. Here is the adress to send your vhs tapes. T.J’s Recycling P.O. Box 361 Fancy Gap Va. 24328 (you can send tapes media mail)

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