Can I Recycle My Old VHS Tapes?

An abandoned VHS tape lies in the street. Mr Doomits/Shutterstock

Q: I started my spring cleaning early and I just came across some boxes (16 to be exact) of old VHS tapes. I never got rid of them because some of them are home movies that I’d like to transfer to some other form of media that I can actually use. You know, first birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, graduations and the like. The rest, like all my old '80s movies, I’ll probably just toss. But before I do, is there any way to recycle these relics of the past?

A: First, let’s deal with the challenge of transferring all those VHS tapes you want to save to DVD. Family videos are a real treasure and can be a great way for your kids and their kids and many generations more to actually get to know (in a freaky "Twilight Zone"-kind of way) who their parents were. But on VHS tapes, those memories might as well be in the trash, because ain’t nobody going to be able to watch those in 10 years. I’m assuming you’re not that computer-savvy, or you would have figured it out how to get all those beautiful memories onto DVD.

Now ... what to do with the rest of those tapes (like that copy of "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" that you’ve watched 100 times). If you’re interested in getting crafty with those old VHS tapes, you can actually crochet old VHS tapes.

Or, instead of letting them gather dust in your basement, put them to a good cause. Alternative Community Training, a nonprofit organization in Missouri that provides jobs to people with disabilities, will take your old tapes and erase them, reselling the ones in good condition and recycling the plastic parts of the rest. You can also see if the local library will take them, or if not, give them to the Salvation Army, which pretty much takes donations of everything.

Another option is to send your old VHS tapes to GreenDisk. They have a nifty word for technology that’s gone obsolete: technotrash. And they’ll take that technotrash and recycle it for you — if you ship it to them. You pay a $6.95 processing fee, and you can ship them up to 20 pounds of those old VHS tapes (not to mention a whole slew of other items). All you have to pay in addition is the shipping, which shouldn’t be more than $10 if you use the postal service’s media rate.

Or if you’d rather not pay a penny, freecycle those tapes. By now, you all know what Freecycle is, right? This might be a good option to try first since most people will pick them up from your house if they’re interested, and of course, there’s no cost to you. Just shoot an e-mail out to the list about your collection, and who knows, you might actually find someone out there who wants your original copy of "Pretty in Pink."

I went the Freecycle route with a bunch of my old VHS tapes a couple years ago — I got so many takers, I had to e-mail them to let them know the collection had already been claimed (by the way, that’s proper Freecycle etiquette for those of you who care). Just goes to show — there’s always someone out there whose treasure is your trash.