What to do with Old Video Tapes


While many people have fond memories of Generation VHS, most keep their unwavering love of video tapes to themselves! For others, VHS may seem like ancient history, but it was the medium of choice for decades to watch movies and record favorite television shows. Remember pulling a new tape out of the shrink-wrap and the paper-backed sticker label fell out of the sleeve? Of course, not all VHS memories are warm and fuzzy. Anybody who owned one of the earlier VCRs likely remembers fiddling around with tracking, a finicky adjustment affecting the head position. And once the machine wore out, it started chewing up your tapes. Of course, all these decades later, many people wonder what to do with old VHS tapes

Are VHS Tapes Recyclable

Unfortunately, while the outer cases of VHS tapes are plastic, the inner tape is made of a phthalate-laden form of the plastic polyethylene (aka Mylar) which isn’t recyclable. Tapes are magnetic so they are coated with toxic metals (e.g. chromium and iron oxide). Although you can’t throw them out with your weekly garbage or recycling, some recycling centers accept them. 

As the saying goes, one persons’ junk is another person’s treasure, so consider donating old video tapes to a local thrift store. Check first to see if they accept this media. You could sell them online or at a garage/yard sale. Keep in mind most don’t fetch more than a buck or two. Word to the wise – don’t give away Disney animated classics that were released in a special edition (e.g. Black Diamond Classics) because many are incredibly collectible and valuable. 

DIY Projects for Repurposing Old Tapes 

If recycling, donating, or selling them isn’t your cup of tea and you’re still wondering what to do with VHS tapes, try repurposing them. The rectangular shape makes VHS tapes fairly easy to disassemble to create unique art or gifts. For example, you can create storage boxes and shelves for small items such as photos, jewelry, books, and even the few video tapes you wish to keep. Remember trying to repair damaged VHS tapes back in the day and thinking about pulling the entire length of tape out of the case instead? Now you can and make all sorts of nifty things in the process, from gift ribbons and DIY pom-poms to strong rope. 

Convert VHS Tapes to Digital 

If you own video tapes with precious memories of important events or favorite movies, the best option is to digitize them. Converting them is a great way to get rid of stacks of old videotapes contributing to clutter and collecting dust. And since most people no longer have a VCR, this is the only way to revisit the past, whether tapes hold memories of your children’s first steps or the daytime soap opera you recorded and could barely wait to watch when you got home from work. At ScanCafe, we make it easy to revisit Generation VHS memories, with your choice of a digital download, DVD, USB drive, and uncompressed or lightly compressed files.