How To Recycle Videotapes and Audio Cassettes

Videotape

Image Credit: Jean Scheijen

(July 2019: This article has been updated to reflect the current trends in collecting vintage videocassettes and audio casettes)

You may have a collection of videos and cassettes gathering dust in your loft, garage or at the back of a cupboard. If you don’t want to throw your collection of unwanted videotapes and cassettes in the bin there are a few options open to you.

In the last couple of years there has been a renewed interest in original videos and cassettes. Some people just want the fun of showing their children or grandchilden the things they used as kids, others want to collect original artefacts by their favourite artists.

Donate It

You may be able to donate them to a local charity shop, but this is getting quite rare now. Please check with the shop before donating as most shops no longer accept videotapes and cassettes. If they don’t sell cassettes (or don't realise that they are now collectable) they will simply put them in the bin. As charity shops have to pay business rates for refuse disposal you will actually be costing the charity money by donating them, so please don’t do that.

You could offer them on your local Freecycle, Gumtree or local Facebook selling page and see if anyone wants them.

Can You Sell It?

If you have a rare video of something that has never been released on DVD you might still be able to sell it. This is more likely if you have videos on a niche interest, but you may even have a film that is not widely available. A quick check on Amazon to see if it's available on DVD will confirm if your video may be in demand.

According to Bloomberg, Yale University library reportedly is collecting VHS tapes of movies only released on videotape for it's archives of cultural material too.

There are people who want original 1970's and 80's cassettes for their collection of recordings by a favourite artist, just to have every format produced. There is quite a market for big names like Madonna, David Bowie and Dire Straits for example, with many best selling cassette albums selling for upwards of £5 on eBay and more unusual tapes going for even more. Yes, that is per tape!

Also if you have any original tapes of rave music compilations from the 1990's there is quite a market for them too.

Could Your VHS Tape be a Collectors Item?

Coming after the revival of vinyl records, there is a small but loyal band of VHS tape collectors.

According to this article in The Telegraph as many as 50% of films available on VHS have not ever been released on DVD, and many are revered for their cover art the same way that LP covers are now regarded as worthy of hanging on the wall.

The 25 most valuable VHS Tapes are mostly schlocky horror movies that were banned soon after release, which is what makes them rare and therefore valuable.

Original Disney videos are also popular with collectors - yes, there are Disney completists too - and working copies of those tapes can command upwards of £5 per tape. At time of writing copies of Aladdin and Bambi on video had recently sold for over £20 each on eBay.

If, by chance, you recorded a programme where the original has been wiped by the TV company you might be able to find a collector who might be interested in it. Indeed the TV company itself might be interested in recovering lost episodes of their programmes.

Still got Betamax videos? Some people still collect Betamax videos and players. Certainly there are plenty of Betamax related items for sale on eBay at any time.

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The Bad News

So what if your videotapes are not of historic or cultural interest, or of interest to collectors?

In most local council areas videotapes cannot be put in your plastics kerbside recycling bin because of the chemical content of the tape itself, and even some recycling centres will not accept them. You will have to check with your local council to see if they will be accepted at a recycling centre.

If none of these solutions are possible, you will have to chuck your old tapes in the bin and they will go to landfill. That hurts doesn't it? If you know of anywhere that will accept tapes for recycling we would love to know so please contact us and tell us about it.

Last Updated 11th July 2019

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