Can I Throw Away Old VHS Tapes?

You may have uncovered countless VHS tapes. They may be recordings of your favorite TV shows or sports games, complete with decade-old commercials. They may also be some of your own personal greatest hits from your life.

Once you’ve gone through the tapes and decide that you don’t want them anymore, there’s an important question to ask: Can I throw away old VHS tapes? The answer may surprise you.

What are VHS Tapes Made Of?

VHS tapes shouldn’t be thrown in the trash. They’re not considered household hazardous waste, but it’s important to know what they’re made up of.

The shell of the VHS is made of plastic. More specifically, it is made of polypropylene plastic or #5 plastic.

The ribbon inside of the VHS tape is Mylar. It is often coated with iron oxide, Chromium, or other chemicals that can be hazardous. The ribbon, depending on the manufacturer, can be toxic. It’s considered techno trash that requires a bit of extra consideration when you toss it. Otherwise, it can cause a variety of problems inside of a landfill.

Additionally, the ribbon is identified as “magnetic media.” If you throw it in the trash, it can interact with other materials and it can even leach some of the toxins into the ground. That can lead to problems for plants and wildlife over time.

The Best Ways to Dispose of VHS Tapes

You’ll have a few options to consider when you don’t want VHS tapes any longer.

Some of the easiest options include:

  • Selling
  • Donating
  • Upcycling (repurposing)

Especially if your VHS tapes are of old black & white Hollywood movies or classic cartoons that your kids used to watch, find a library, children’s center, or even senior home that is willing to take them off your hands. You might be able to unload boxes of old VHS tapes by rehoming them with someone who has a VHS player and who hasn’t learned the joys of Hulu and Netflix yet.

If you don’t want to do any of those, you have to ask yourself, can I throw away old VHS tapes. While you can, you shouldn’t – and there are a few reasons why.

Since the ribbon of the cassette tends to be toxic, you should look for companies that will recycle the videos. This includes Earth911.com and GreenCitizen.com.

If your recycling company accepts #5 plastic, you can do some of the recycling on your own. Break the cassette apart so that you have two pieces: the shell and the bundle of Mylar ribbon. The plastic shell can go directly into your recycling container. Then, you only have to worry about finding a recycler who will accept the ribbon.

The ribbon can be repurposed and upcycled in several creative ways. Once you find someone willing to take it off of your hands, it can be the easiest way to get rid of the miles and miles of it that you may have collected.

There’s another reason why you don’t want to dispose of the VHS tapes in the trash. When they’re home movies, there may be personally identifiable information on there. Dumpster divers may discover more about you than you would prefer strangers to know. Names of family members could be mentioned, home addresses can be shown, and more. As a way to maintain your privacy, it’s best to destroy the evidence and leave the rest to be recycled by professionals. Otherwise, a few ditched videos could come back to haunt you – and there are ways to prevent that from happening.

Places such as Shred Right will shred the ribbon so that it is rendered unreadable. Then, they’ll follow sustainable practices to make sure that the shreds don’t end up in a landfill.

Know the Rules in Your Area

Find out what some of the rules in your area are when it comes to recycling. Some cities and counties have recycling programs while others don’t.

Start by reading your area’s recycling rules. Find out if they have a specific place to take VHS tapes so that you are compliant with the law. You don’t want to accidentally toss something in the trash or recycling bin only to get fined later on.

If you don’t see anything that specifically mentions VHS tapes, make a call or a web inquiry. If they cannot provide you with proper direction, it is up to you to find the most environmentally friendly way to toss the tapes. Then, you may even want to reach back out to your city or county to provide them with direction so that they can pass it on to more responsible citizens.

Don’t Forget to Preserve the Content

While you may be eager to throw away the VHS tapes to make room for new things, you don’t want to toss away memories. Just because you may not have a VHS player to watch the movies on anymore doesn’t mean they can’t be preserved.

Converting the VHS tapes is simple and affordable. Finding a company like ARS Video can ensure that you get a DVD or digital format that works for you. It allows you to have all of your favorite memories in a format that you can store, watch, and share easily with others. You might have decades’ worth of footage – and there’s no reason that it should end up in the trash.

VHS tapes can certainly take up a lot of room. If you’ve tried to sell some, you know that most people don’t want them. Many are in the same situation as you – they have boxes and boxes of old VHS tapes and don’t know what to do with them.

Studio movies are available on streaming services…as are TV shows. As for the home movies, you can convert them. Then, all of the old cassettes can be discarded appropriately. By taking an eco-friendly approach, it gets the cassettes out of your sight while offering peace of mind knowing that you’re not causing problems in a landfill.