Don’t Throw Away Your VHS Tapes

Don’t Throw Away Your VHS Tapes
Photo: ullstein bild, Getty Images

Technology has taken us from tapes to DVDs to digital streaming in just a few decades. But while a teenager today may have no idea what a VHS tape is, many of us who were around between 1977 and the rise of DVDs in 1997 might still have old VHS tapes laying around and taking up space. If you’re ready to get rid of them but don’t want to fill a garbage can (and, later, a landfill) with your closet full of bulky hardware, here are some things to consider.

You shouldn’t throw them away

The casing of a VHS tape is plastic, but the inside is actually a magnetic strip coated with a material called mylar, which is toxic when left to degrade in landfills. Since you can’t — or, at least, shouldn’t — mindlessly throw them away, VHS tapes are another form of techno trash that need special considerations. And you can’t simple toss them with your bottles and cans, either.

VHS tapes aren’t your regular recyclable

Because the magnetic strip can’t be refurbished, VHS tapes are recycled differently. The recycling company Green Disk will accept your VHS tapes and other techno trash to handle them as needed. As explained in their frequently-asked questions: “Material that has no further operating life is broken down to its smallest components (metals, plastics, etc.) and used in the manufacturing of new products.”

They also offer a techno trash can of varying sizes and costs for individuals and businesses to dispose of their outdated technology safely, with less worry if they’re disposing of their trash correctly. Green Disk vows that “almost 100% of the material that GreenDisk collects is reused or recycled,” so you can feel better knowing your favourite movie isn’t becoming toxic fertiliser.

Your VHS tapes probably aren’t worth money

There’s contention over whether VHS tapes are worth big money. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence or expertise in the value of outdated tapes. As with anything, there might be someone who will pay for it, but your closet of Disney films are unlikely to be worth a fortune. A single tape can be found on eBay being offered at $1,650, while a collection of similar titles are listed for $40.

Still, if you want to try, you can list your old tapes on eBay, Amazon, Facebook, or anywhere else you might try to sell your old things. If you’re lucky, collectors may take interest, but keep in mind that even rare items need to be in good condition: As Investopedia notes, “The price for a particular collectible usually depends on how many of the same item are available as well as its overall condition.” If your tapes are in good condition and still have the original box, you might earn a little money while sending them away to a good home.

You can upcycle VHS tapes into other things

If the tape has a special place in your heart, you can keep it: The casings can be made into a coffee tables and shelves, or the tape can be braided into bracelets and knitted into hats. The site Mental Floss provides a list of ideas to repurpose VHS tapes in creative ways, ranging from pompoms to a USB port. Artist Jasmine Murrell even turns them into abstract installations. You may not play your VHS tape anymore, but if you want to be creative you can turn it into something else.

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