What To Do With Old VHS Tapes

By: Josh Peterson, Planet Green  | 
vhs tapes photo

In the 90's, you'd be hard pressed to find a living room that wasn't loaded with a giant collection of physical media. But society's transition to digital entertainment has left a lot of people wondering what to do with old VHS tapes, audio cassette tapes, and other obsolete electronic waste.

Before you start tossing your old tapes in the trash, do the environment a favor by exploring creative and practical ways to repurpose or recycle them.


1. Donate Them

Believe it or not, there are still communities and collectors who use VHS tapes. Schools, daycare centers, libraries and nursing homes sometimes accept these donations for educational or entertainment purposes. Call your local library or post on a community forum to find local organizations or individuals that are willing to take your unwanted VHS tapes.

Most thrift stores and nonprofit organizations will take them off your hands too. If you're unsure, call ahead to confirm that they do indeed accept VHS tapes.


2. Sell Them

There's a niche market for VHS tapes, especially rare, obscure, or cult-classic films that haven't been transferred to digital formats. Websites like eBay or Etsy are platforms where collectors frequently look for such items.

You might be surprised at the value some of your old tapes could have. For example, back in June of 2022, a sealed 1983 copy of Jaws sold for $32,500 in a Heritage auction [Source: Bartiromo].


3. Digital Conversion

For the tapes containing precious memories or rare content not available in a digital format, converting them to digital files can be a practical solution. There are services that can do this for a fee, or you can undertake the project yourself with the right equipment. Once digitized, you can ensure those memories are preserved for future generations without the bulk of physical tapes.


4. Upcycle Them

For the creatively inclined, VHS tapes offer a unique medium for crafting and creative projects. The mylar tape can be woven into bags, rugs, or even clothes, while the cases can be transformed into photo frames, storage boxes, or custom notebooks [source: Eire]. There are numerous tutorials online that can guide you through these projects.


5. Recycle Them

Recycling VHS tapes is more challenging than recycling common household items do to their combination of plastic and magnetic tape. Sadly, it's not as easy as chucking them in the recycling bin.

However, some specialized recycling centers do accept them, and break down the VHS tape components for reuse. Services can vary by location, which is why you're encouraged to explore local options online. Websites like Green Citizen, 1-800-Recycling, and Earth911 are all invaluable online resources for the eco-conscious consumer [source: Adams].


Long Live Physical Media

The market for physical media like BluRays and CDs has been on the decline, and VHS tapes have been out of circulation for decades. Still, these relics of a begone era remain in basements, closets, and attics all over the world.

Fortunately, there are a lot of easy and creative ways to recycle VHS tapes without having to toss them in a the dumpster. Give them a second life through donation, upcycling and selling. Or, dispose of them properly by participating in local recycling programs, or at a local waste management facility.


Recycling VHS Tapes FAQs

How do I dispose of VHS tapes?
When looking to dispose VHS tapes, you should consider donating them to thrift stores; recycling them at places like greendisk.com or freecycle.com; or upcycling them. You can also consider donating them to your local library or shelter.
Are old VHS tapes worth anything?
VHS tapes don't have much value today. You can expect to sell these to collectors for about 50 cents each.
Can I throw VHS tapes in the garbage?
While VHS tapes aren't necessarily considered hazardous, it's a better idea to try to recycle, upcycle or donate them than toss them in the landfill.