How to Recycle VHS Tapes and Cassette Tapes

recycle VHS tapesVHS and cassette tapes are a classic example of a dead technology. Shoved out of use by DVDs and CDs more than a decade ago, video tapes are so dead that hipsters barely use them. But how should you recycle VHS tapes? Sadly, video tapes are also a classic example of a technology designed with no consideration for its end of life.

Besides Styrofoam, which can sometimes be reused inside surfboards, videotapes might be the most difficult household item to recycle. Many household items are not cost-effective to recycle, meaning they cost more money to break down than can be reclaimed for their raw materials. VHS tapes are the worst in this regard. In short, they take a lot of work to recycle, and they are almost worthless.

Video Tape Recycling Options

If you are a San Francisco resident, here is what you can do: To recycle VHS tapes, you must separate the plastic case of the video from the black film. The plastic case of the video tape can be recycled; the film cannot. Pry open the plastic case with a screw driver and remove the black magnetic tape from the casing. This black tape must be thrown in the garbage. Once this has been removed, all of the remaining plastic can be put into the blue recycling bin at your home of office. Video tapes with the black magnetic tape still inside must be put in the trash.

For locations of VHS and cassette tape recyclers, please consult earth911.com, a nation-wide search engine for recycling centers. Just enter “VHS” or “Video Tapes” and your zip code to find the drop-off locations closest to you that can recycle VHS tapes. Earth911.com can be used to find recycling centers for many household items. Thank you for doing your part to recycle VHS tapes!

41 Comments on “How to Recycle VHS Tapes and Cassette Tapes

  1. Lisa White

    I was looking on your website for ways to recycle VHS tapes and saw that you offered up earth911.com for other locations in which to send my tapes. The website does not seem to be a working website. Do you know of anywhere I can take these in the Detroit, MI area?
    Thanks

  2. Theresa Champagne

    Hello,

    I would like to recycle cassette tapes and found that I can bring them to my local Green Citizen center in Berkeley, http://greencitizen.com/berkeley_computer_electronic_recycling_center.php, for $0.10 per tape,

    I didn’t see it specifically stated that the tapes are disassembled. Can you please confirm? Do you split the tapes using something similar to the Oreo Separator Machine?

    Thanks!
    Theresa

  3. Ben G

    I’m in Salt Lake and have many VHS tapes that I didn’t want to send to the landfill. I have been looking for a facility who will handle them, with no luck. Thanks for clearly explaining the situation- I will recycle as many parts of these myself as I can.

  4. Regina

    Hi There,

    I see all you have about video tapes, but do you take audio cassette tapes?

    thank you.

    • Jake Hanft

      Hi Regina,

      Yes, we do take cassette tapes for 10 cents per tape. Like with VHS tapes, we have to charge because they are so difficult to dismantle. Thanks for your interest! Please let us know if you have any more questions.

      The GreenCitizen Team

      • Howard Adler

        Any locations in S Florida?

        • James Kao

          Hi Howard,

          We are only located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Try going http://search.earth911.com/ to find a location near you that can take them!

  5. homepage

    Just where did u actually acquire the concepts to post ““How to Recycle VHS
    and Cassette Tapes |”? Thanks a lot -Phillip

  6. Sally Norton

    Would you take mail in VHS tapes for recycling if I send you 50 cents per tape and audio cassette tapes if I send you 10 cents per tape? Thanks.

  7. Sydney

    Please email me your address so I can mail u my video/tapes and feel secure that they won’t land in a landfill. I tried pulling them apart w eyeglass screwdriver to recycle but difficult. I’m happy to send money order w shipment. Thank you!

  8. John Prokos

    Why don’t you just tell people who your downstream recycler is? The people who you “pay” to take the tapes from you.

    • Jake Hanft

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your question. In an industry like recycling, which is naturally opaque and convoluted, it’s important to employ a healthy skepticism, since some many e-waste recyclers claim to be “green.” Our downstream recycler for media (VHS and Cassette tapes) is Sims Metal Management, located in Hayward California. We have to pay Sims by the pound for the media we ship to them. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

  9. Gerardo

    Where can I throw my VHS and some wires. I’m from chicago,IL please

    • Jake Hanft

      Hi Gerado. Check out earth911.com for a list of places near you. Earth911.com is a search engine for recycling centers. All you need to do is type in your zip code and the item you would like to recycle (VHS) and earth911 will list the closest drop-off locations to you.

  10. Ray

    Sorry I love all my VHS tapes not planning on giving them away just cause the DVD says so!

    • Sue in Virginia

      So, can I mail you my small VHS movie library? Movies like: “Dakota,” “Primary Colors,” “The Witness,” “Princess Bride,” etc.

      Please respond. I hate to just dump them!

      • Rebecca

        Senior Centers will sometimes accept VHS tapes. Check with your local one(s) and see if they are interested.

  11. michael sea

    Cassettes and VHS tapes have 5 small screws that hold them together. The right size Phillips makes it quite easy. Inside most cassettes their is a small shiny piece of metal that could be used in crafts. You can see it behind the pad.

    If you leave the vhs intact you can use them for shelving. For me they are preferable as most shelves are pretty much standard. Using them for ends all you need horizontal boards and you can adjust the shelves vertically.

    Save the screws to give to someone who has a shop they work in. Just put them in a recycled jar. You will find someone who can use them.

    I still like vhs over discs as they hold 6 to 8 hours, so they actually take up less space than a disc.

    • flyguille

      hold 6 to 8 hours, compare against what? DVD?…. really anybody uses things like CD/DVDs in the Internet Era?.

      I have problems, thinking how to throw away all my dvd collection.

      and please 6 up to 8 hours, of bad quality LP video……

  12. Ellen Murphy

    Hi. Above it says to throw away the inside film of a VHS. Other sites say that film is very toxic.

    • Gunnar W.

      The film (tape) is not “very toxic”. Consider this: In the broadcast industry people were handling recording tapes with bare hands and not necessarily washing their hands before eating for over half a century. Nobody died, nobody even got sick. Stop spreading nonsense.

  13. Robyn

    Would you accept VHS from a local government in Oregon? I don’t think we have a huge amount – probably less than 50. Please let me know as I can’t find any other place that will recycle them. Thanks.

  14. Deborah

    Thanks for the information about earth911.com. I was able to find several locations to drop off my unwanted VHS tapes. I live in Columbus, Ohio.

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  16. Paul in SF

    Glad to have found this information. When I was trying to resurrect my old VHS collection last month, I learned that no one manufactures players any more. And one cannot trust used machines that have complicated moving parts (e.g., from Craigslist). So I will disassemble about 300 VHS cassettes and recycle as suggested.

  17. Diane Levitus

    It’s so heartening to read that there are many people who are so eager to recycle that they would pay someone to take their VHS tapes rather than send them to a landfill. My family and I thought I was the only one who thought this way!

  18. Karen

    Does the San Francisco site (1541 Sloat Blvd) take the VCR video and also audio tapes for $0.10 each recycling? You only mentioned the site in Berkeley.

    • Mallory Morales

      Hi Karen,

      GreenCitizen no longer collects VHS and other tape based media for recycling. We no longer have a downstream vendor that will accept them and therefore can no longer properly dispose of them.

      Thanks,

      Mallory

  19. Vickie Nelson

    Give VHS tapes you don’t want to Goodwill or other thrift stores and let someone else enjoy them. There are many people who still watch tapes, including myself. Players aren’t available new but there are many available at thrift stores. And they can last a long time. I have one I bought in 1986 that’s still working.

    Some people prefer VHS to DVDs, and also there are many persons of limited means who buy both the players and VHS movies for cheap at thrift stores.

  20. Kevin

    Really, there’s simply GOT TO BE someone in the world (if not the USA) with the brains to figure out how to profitably cash in on a new use for old video tape. One hurdle is already crossed in the fact that it is not toxic material. THINK, PEOPLE, THINK! – or has America run out of brains, improvisation and ingenuity? Find a way to make the black tape material valuable so as to motivate people to dig it out of their cassettes – you can QUICKLY mine it out – with just a cordless electric drill with a very small Phillips bit, hurdle Two done. Hurdle Three, mine out the videos at GW and the Salvation Army and thrift shops and flea markets. Then one can wind out the tape onto some sort of weaving device and make table or desk or floor mats, etc. Whatever! Knot the tape and form strands into a curtain across doorways… Maybe these will be good for de-staticking yourself (as you pass through the curtain) in a house full of carpets! Or make floormats that will do the same. JUST DO IT and MORE! Don’t burden the archeologists with wondering what the things are when they dig them out of the dumps in a thousand years! (NOT! For sure, this ain’t gonna happen. Haven’t you heard, the END is near! So be found prepared by Jesus responsibly stewarding our God given resources in ways that benefit others as well as yourself! (Hah! Bet you didn’t see THAT evangelization spiel coming! My email address doesn’t say “evangelart” for nothing!)

  21. Lee Haas

    I am the chairperson of a book sale for our public library. This is the last year we will accept donated VHS tapes. I expect to have a lot of them left over after our sale in April, so I was hoping to find a way to recycle or reuse them. Now I understand what the problem is.

  22. Owen

    TerraCycle does accept VHS tapes. Of course, you do have to pay for the recycling box to ship them. I believe a small box is under $100.

  23. Bri

    My 70+ VHS tapes are either pirated or home movies, so literally aren’t desirable in any thrift stores. I just want to remark that a quick search on Pinterest literally yields dozens of great ways to REUSE these perfect little plastic building blocks into items for use around the house. I’m so happy they don’t have to go to the dump!

  24. Mike

    Consider me just the type of person who has a problem understanding anything. I spent a fortune on Reel to Reel tapes and thousands of dollars worth of equipment only to see it replaced by 8 track tapes for $20. each and hundreds of dollar in a player. Only to see everything replaced by audio cassettes and complete stereo racks systems… only to see everything replaced by VHS tapes and laserdiscs and Sony handicams 8 mm and players only to see all that replaced by CD’s and then double density CD’s and then DVD’s. So I have invested a literal fortune in trying to keep up with technology and now someone is suggesting that I take hundreds of tapes containing special information to recycling just to go out and spend more money trying to get information on new types of media. And now the
    green people want you to dump your dvd’s.

    And then you get rid of your vinyl record collection just to discover that DJ’s are still using vinyl and turntables ?? And those album jackets are now collectors items.

    I think the whole world must be crazy… if you like your vhs tapes.. keep them for another 25 years and then think about upgrading to technology instead of buying into every fad.

    Btw…. the life of a CD or DVD is 10 years for data storage. The life of a tape is 25 to 50 years. Where do you want to archive your information…..

  25. Evie Ladin

    Seems like there’s no service in the bay area that will take the vhs tapes off our hands, without as you suggest, taking them apart. Is that right? Is landfill our next option? Thanks for the reply –

  26. Bill Falls

    The main page text above says “You can donate your VHS tapes to either Goodwill or to the San Francisco Public Library.” Neither of these is true anymore (12/2016).

    The book donation page for Friends of the SFPL http://www.friendssfpl.org/books/book-donations.html lists VHS tapes under “What we do not accept.” Goodwill lists VHS tapes only as a disposal problem for which they issued a challenge for the best ideas (the page http://www.goodwill.org/blog/news-updates/san-francisco-goodwill-launches-challenge-to-solve-vhs-disposal-problem/ is undated but a comment from early 2015 says the contest seemed to be over then).

    • James Kao

      Hi Bill,

      Thank you for letting us know! I have updated the post accordingly.

  27. Philip Yan

    In Toronto, Canada, there is a social enterprise aim to recycle all media tapes including VHS tapes properly. 2.26 billion tapes were consumed in Ontario alone.
    They now offers mail-in service. http://www.RedPropeller.ca

  28. GreenSF

    James, your details above under Video Tape Recycling Options you have specific instructions on how to dispose of video tapes (part recycle part garbage). Can we do the same thing with audio cassettes in San Francisco?

    • James Kao

      Hello,

      I could not find information from Recology regarding audio tape recycling, so I believe you cannot disassemble and recycle just the plastic. For your tapes, I would recommend going to www,greendisk.com. They are able to take your tapes as is for a small fee!

      Thank you,

      GreenCitizen

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