How to Recycle VHS and Cassette Tapes – From GreenCitizen San Francisco E-waste Recycling!

VHS 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 what should you do with the stacks of old tapes you’ve got laying around the house? 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.

GreenCitizen does accept VHS tapes, but for a small fee. We take pride in being able to recycle all electronics for free, but VHS tapes are just too costly to recycle for free. A little background: For most old electronics, there is some reclaim value. So, for every pound of say, toasters, which we recycle, we are able to make back a small amount of money, approximately 4 cents per pound. So, if we recycle 100 pounds of toasters, we  recuperate $4. It’s not enough to cover our costs, but it’s a start. Our collecting and processing costs are partially covered.

With videotapes, it’s the opposite. Like with all items, we have costs associated with collecting and processing them. However, we can’t recover any of these costs by selling the raw materials. In fact, we have to pay another recycler to take the raw VHS material off of our hands. So, if we recycle 100 pounds of VHS tapes, we have to perform all the work, and then pay $15. And since our downstream recycler recently tripled their price, we have to charge 25 cents per tape for recycling (and 10 cents for cassette tapes).

Video Tape Recycling Options

If you are a San Francisco resident, here is what you can do: The plastic case of the video tape can be recycled. 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.

You can donate your VHS tapes to either Goodwill or to the San Francisco Public Library. However, while they may rent or sell some of your VHS tapes, I can’t imagine either of these organizations having the manpower to dismantle and recycle the tapes they do not use. So, some of your tapes may be reused, but most will be thrown away. To be sure your tapes do not end up in a landfill, please recycle them yourself. It is a lot of work, but this is the price we all pay for consuming goods designed without consideration for their end of life.

For locations of VHS and cassette tape recyclers outside of San Francisco, 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. Earth911.com can be used to find recycling centers for many household items.

This entry was posted in Bay Area, E-waste, Electronic Recycling, Electronic Recyclying, GreenCitizen, Recycling Laws, San Francisco, VHS Tapes, Video Tapes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to How to Recycle VHS and Cassette Tapes – From GreenCitizen San Francisco E-waste Recycling!

  1. Lisa White says:

    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. 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, http://greencitizen.com/what_we_recycle.php.

    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? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pii4G8FkCA4

    Thanks!
    Theresa

  3. Ben G says:

    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 says:

    Hi There,

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

    thank you.

    • Jake Hanft says:

      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

  5. homepage says:

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

  6. Sally Norton says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

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

    • Jake Hanft says:

      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 says:

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

  11. Fred says:

    I’m assuming that clear CASES that hold audio cassettes can be recycled?

    • Jake Hanft says:

      Yes! Great question Fred. Jewel cases can be dropped off at GreenCitizen for free, or recycled at any location that accepts hard plastics.

  12. JanetK says:

    No need to dismantle them if you mail unwanted VHS, CD, DVDs and a few other items (with the exception of audio cassettes) to Alternative Community Training in Missouri. Disabled people will break them up for disposal. Go to ACTServices.org and click on the Donations tab and then How to Donate Media Material for details and address. A donor form must be included with your shipment. You provide the box and postage but other than that there is no charge. I found this location on the Stanford University website.

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