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Can Tapes Be Recycled?

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By Dillon Wallace

If you’re asking yourself whether your crop of old video and audio tapes can be recycled, then it sounds like you’ve already made the smart choice to have them digitized. Go ahead and give yourself a hand because you just successfully future-proofed your memories. 

But, now that you’ve got brand new digital copies of your most memorable moments, what do you do with all your old media?
After all, one of the best parts of the digitization process is freeing your closet, basement or attic of all the dusty boxes full of home VHS tapes, photos and more.

 

The good news is your stash of videotapes can be recycled. But there is a catch. While VHS tapes may look easily recyclable, they actually contain more than 1,400 feet of tape per reel -- making it pretty difficult to dispose of each tape safely. But it can be done, and in a way that doesn’t end up with them littering the bottom of a landfill.

 

Why you should recycle your videotapes

Videotapes are made up of reels of tape. Duh, right? But did you know that the mylar plastic tape they house is actually coated in metals that are considered to be hazardous waste? Furthermore, the actual plastic used to make them is #5 plastic, which can take centuries to break down and decompose.

 

Difficulty in natural recycling

Now you know that VHS tapes aren’t good to just toss away due to their toxic metals and long degradation period. So recycling makes sense, right? Yes, but it’s not that easy. When it comes to VHS and audio cassette tapes, there isn’t a lot of value to be had in getting anything useful out of them. In fact, it’s below the cost of personnel hours required to break down the tapes for recycling. Next to Styrofoam, they may be the most difficult household items to get rid of. 

 

Ways to recycle and reuse your tapes

Traditional recycling methods may not be the best for your obsolete tape collection, but there are other methods to consider when it comes to reusing and recycling. 

 

  • Sell them. That’s right, you may no longer have use for your old VHS and cassette tapes, but that doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t. Try selling them online or at a garage sale to the highest bidder. Even a little change is better than no change, and some rare VHS tapes can bring in a nice pile of cash.
  • Trade them in. A lot of the video rental stores have faded from existence, but there are still some music and video stores that might have interest in your VHS or audio cassette tape collection. After all, cassette tapes are making a bit of a comeback, so you never know what’s in store for your VHS collection.
  • Artwork. The beauty of art is that it’s not just in the eye of the beholder, it’s taking the normal and making it extraordinary. There are lots of artistic uses that your videotape and cassette tape collection can help with. It’s just finding the right person to use them -- or maybe it’s your turn to dabble in a little artistic craft.
  • Donate them. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If you’ve digitized and you’re over continually storing and moving your tape collection, then donate it to your local thrift store, antique mall, library or local charity. There are so many places that still have use for the outdated media, you’re sure to find one.

 

If you’re really keen on recycling your tapes in a more traditional way, then there are companies that exist to help you along your green journey. Whether you’re an individual or a business, places like GreenCitizen can recycle your tapes using a waste-to-energy incineration method that minimizes the environmental impact, reduces landfill and avoids global dumping. That sounds like a win-win-win.

 

Happy recycling!

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