By Megan Dobransky on Dec 22, 2010

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: Wikimedia Commons

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

[holidaySearch type=”recycle” what=”cassette tapes” whatlabel=”cassette tapes”]

Earlier this year, Sony announced the last production of the cassette-playing Walkman, and DVD player sales outpaced VCRs almost five years ago.

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

“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.

“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.”

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 on a large scale, Friedman says that they’ve had success in the past with boutique solutions like individuals creating bags or decorative items.

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.”

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      • http://www.linkedin.com/in/tedpoppke Ted

        What about my 8-tracks?

      • Gene D.

        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 ?

      • p walter

        I can recycle the tape but have no use for the outside plastic. Contact me at pjwnm@yahoo.com.

      • Sue

        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!

      • p walter

        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.

      • tia

        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)