Almost all of us have old VHS and cassette tapes lurking in our attics, garages, or basements. Perhaps you’ve already been sentimental about them, so you kept them for years. They may be recordings of your favorite TV shows or sports games, complete with decade-old commercials. They may be old copies of movies that you once enjoyed watching again and again. They may also be some of your own personal greatest hits from your life. But if you have decided to let them go, perhaps you’ve been thinking of how to dispose of them.
Once you’ve gone through the tapes and realize you don’t want them anymore, there’s an important question: Can I throw away old VHS tapes? The answer may surprise you.
Why People Think About Disposing of VHS Tapes
VHS tapes stopped being produced in 2008, and there are no new VHS players have been made since 2012. These pieces of technology are as dead as a dodo, and there’s no sign of them returning. Even DVDs are on the way to becoming obsolete, as streaming and soft copies of movies have long taken the place of VHS tapes as movie formats of choice.
For people who are downsizing their houses due to economic reasons or for those whose children have left the nest, old VHS tapes belong to some of the items they want to get rid of. Since most owners no longer use these things, they only take up precious storage space.
In recent years, the minimalist movement in interior design has also encouraged more people to give up the things that only add clutter to the house for simplicity and aesthetics.
Can You Throw a VHS Tape Away?
VHS tapes should not be thrown out in the regular trash because they contain plastic and magnetic tape, which can harm the environment if not disposed of properly. In many places, VHS tapes are considered e-waste and need to be recycled.
The shell of the VHS is made of plastic – more specifically, polypropylene plastic or #5 plastic. It can take up to a hundred years before finally decomposing; even after that, it only breaks down into microplastic.
The ribbon inside of the VHS tape is a magnetic strip coated with mylar material, which is toxic when left to degrade in landfills. It’s considered techno trash that requires a bit of extra consideration when you toss it. You can’t throw them with your cans or bottles, either.
Additionally, the ribbon is identified as “magnetic media.” If you throw it in the trash, it can interact with other materials and even leach some of the toxins into the ground. That can lead to problems for plants and wildlife over time.
When left to decompose on land, parts of VHS tapes could be washed off to the river or to other bodies of water. When this happens, it can cause harm to marine life, make soil lose fertility, and stunt plants’ growth. So while it’s easy to toss VHS tapes into your garbage, it has serious ripple effects, as it can constantly endanger our environment.
What to Do with Old VHS Tapes
Since you can’t just throw VHS tapes away, what can you do with them to dispose of them? There are several options:
If you have many VHS tapes of your precious memories, you should save that irreplaceable content first. You can convert the content on your VHS tapes to a digital format and store them on a computer or cloud-based storage system. This will ensure the content is preserved and easily accessed and shared. If you’re sentimental about the contents of your tape but need to dispose of them, this is the best option. It would also be fun for the whole family to watch ancient tapes, like those videos of your now-adult children when they were just starting to walk. It’s a way to celebrate the good old times so you can all be nostalgic about it!
Suppose you have old VHS tapes that you no longer need or want, consider donating them. Goodwill lists VHS tapes as an acceptable donation, so you may want to look into a local Goodwill in your area where you can drop them off. You may also try giving it to local libraries if they accept it. Local vintage shops and old record stores may sometimes get customers who are interested in VHS tapes, so you may also look into them.
Some collectors or enthusiasts may be interested in purchasing your old VHS tapes. You can sell them on online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Craigslist, or anywhere else you might try to sell your old stuff. You may also try selling it out to local yard sales in case you think it won’t sell if you display it at your own yard sale.
There’s not much evidence or expertise when it comes to the value of outdated tapes. As with any “vintage” thing, someone might be willing to pay for it, but it’s unlikely to cost a fortune. If you have a rare VHS, it must be in good condition for high-paying collectors to take interest. Its price usually depends on how many of the same item are available and its overall condition. You may earn a little money if they are in good condition and still come with the original box.
If you have a VHS material that is now hard to find, you can place it for bidding. You can also find museums or ancient stores that may want to offer you some money for VHS tapes, so use your negotiation skills to get the best deal.
Recycling VHS tapes is essential since the Mylar plastic tape inside can be considered hazardous waste, while the rest is made of plastic that takes centuries to degrade. However, recycling VHS tapes on your own is difficult because they’re not cost-effective. The value of getting anything useful out of them is below the cost and hours needed to break them down for recycling.
Your best bet for recycling these things is to give them to recycling centers that can handle the bulk so that any energy and resource used to break the materials down will be worth it. If your VHS tapes are damaged or no longer usable, you can check with your local recycling center to see if they accept VHS tapes for recycling. Some electronics stores and community organizations may also accept VHS tapes for recycling. It’s important to properly recycle VHS tapes to prevent them from ending up in landfills or being incinerated, which can release toxic chemicals into the environment.
There are recycling companies that accept techno trash like VHS tapes. These companies can break down material (plastics, metals, etc.) that has no other operating life into its smallest components for manufacturing new products.
Organizations like Greendisk accept all types of old electronics like VHS, cassette tapes, floppy disks, CDs, or DVDs for recycling.
Repurpose or upcycle them
If you’re the crafty type, you can use old VHS tapes to make something new and useful for you! There are many creative ways to upcycle old VHS tapes. Here are a few ideas:
This is one of the easiest crafts you can do from VHS tapes. Using super glue or a hot glue gun, glue one or two old CDs to the bottom of one or 2 VHS tapes. The CD will serve as the flat horizontal surface to keep the VHS bookend standing. If your VHS tapes have cardboard, sleeve-type covers, keep them on to give each bookend a unique look – this can add an exciting touch to your bookshelf.
Cut the cover of the VHS tape case and use it as a photo frame. You can decorate the frame with paint, stickers, or other embellishments. Hang it on your wall or let it stand on a shelf or any surface you want to display it.
Use the magnetic tape from the VHS tapes to create unique jewelry pieces such as bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. You can braid, knot, or weave the tape to create interesting textures.
The old plastic shell-type case of VHS tapes is perfect for storing things like pens, markers, and other art supplies. They snap shut, so whatever you want to store inside won’t fall out.
Alternatively, you can also use it to store board game pieces like dice, tiles, or scorekeeping materials. If the VHS cases have sleeves on them, you can make your own label to indicate what’s inside.
As you use the case for storing anything, save the spools and use it for winding up yarn, wire, thread, or anything else that is wrappable.
Cut the magnetic tape from the VHS tapes and glue it onto a cork or wooden base to create unique coasters.
Create a collage of VHS tape covers and frame them as wall art. Or, if you choose to make picture frames out of VHS tape, you can create your custom gallery wall by grouping several VHS tapes turned into frames together on a wall.
Coffee Tables or Night Stands
You can create a small coffee table or nightstand out of VHS tapes glued together.
If you have at least 32 VHS tapes, you can make a spacious coffee table. Glue 16 of them together side by side in a 4 x 4 grid to create a tabletop. If you’re making a nightstand, use 8 or 12 tapes only. Then, glue the remaining into stacks of 4 (make sure the flat parts are stuck to one another) to make four legs. Use super glue or any strong glue to attach the VHS tapes to one another securely. It will surely be a conversation starter for any guest who will visit!