Unwanted VHS tapes - what to do?
April 30, 2008 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Been converting VHS videotapes to digital and now I have boxes of VHS tapes. Is their next destination the landfill? Is there any merit to breaking them up first and finding some recyclability?
posted by mouthnoize to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are they the sort of thing that a shelter might like to have, as entertainment for residents?
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 12:33 PM on April 30, 2008

Are they old movies, or things you taped with a camcorder or VCR? If they're movies, donate them to someplace that will watch them - a daycare, shelter, hospital, etc. If they're your personal videos, I'd say tape static over them and then offer them up on freecycle or craigslist. When I looked into getting rid of a box full of VHS tapes, I was assured by several sources that they'd go fast if I told the internet they were available for free. (Haven't tried it yet...)
posted by vytae at 12:36 PM on April 30, 2008

Are you really sure that you want to dispose of them? I personally would never get rid of the masters of anything, just because I'd converted it to digital. Especially if you converted them into a lossy format (MPEG-1/2/4), you may find in the future -- when it comes to transcode them into the newest format-du-jour -- that it's preferable to convert them from the masters again than to try and convert from one lossy format to another.

I guess I'm just saying that it seems like a whole lot of confidence in your format choice to destroy the originals; I'm not sure I'd ever be that ballsy. I used to run into a lot of people, back when I was working in video production, who tossed away their old 8mm films after they got them converted to VHS ... because why keep the films, when tape is so much better, right? Most people lived to regret that, especially when it came time to convert to DVD. Unless you're very confident that you've extracted every last bit of information from those tapes that you -- or your descendants -- will ever want (including all the metadata, stuff written on the labels), and you're sure it's actually encapsulated in the new format, I'd keep 'em. But that's just me, and I'm an admitted packrat.

But anyway, if you're really sure that's the route you want to go down, I'd follow the good old "3 Rs" of recycling. It's a bit late to reduce, but obviously reuse would be best. I find it doubtful that many people will be interested in used VHS cassettes, but there's no harm in posting them to Freecycle or Craigslist, as long as the content on them isn't terribly private. In terms of recycling, you may want to look at this thread. These people will securely dispose of up to 20 lbs of media for $6.95; allegedly they degauss used VHS tapes and sell them for use in security systems. (I think it's a little ridiculous that you have to pay for them to re-use your tapes, but if it helps your conscience...)

Two other companies in the same line of business are Lacerta and Ecodisk. (via)

I can't seem to get good information on what the black plastic part of a VHS tape is made out of. You may be able to disassemble the tapes yourself, and just toss the actual magnetic tape, and recycle the plastic components. (You'd have to be sure to get the springs and other metal parts out, too.) To me this seems like a lot of work, but maybe it's worth it. (Apparently some towns in Britain have prisoners or people in need of some community service do it, which sounds like a great idea to me.) You probably want to check with your local solid-waste office before you put the disassembled cases in your bin; the last thing you'd want to do is go to all the effort of breaking them up if they're just going to pull the stuff out and pitch it later on in the chain.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:07 PM on April 30, 2008

posted by doorsfan at 1:09 PM on April 30, 2008

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