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Can videotapes be recycled? The short answer is “yes, but not in your recycling bin." If no one wants to buy your used VHS tapes, and if donation sites are starting to turn them away, don’t head for the trash can! Use this videotape recycling guide to learn why VHS tapes are a challenge, and what you can do to make sure your old favorites (long since replaced by DVDs) don’t end up in a landfill.
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Why Not Curbside?
To understand why videotapes can’t go out to the curb with your milk jugs and cereal boxes, you need to know what they’re made of. The clamshell casing, as visible from the outside, is made of plastic. The interior is a combination of metal screws, additional plastic components, and of course the metallic tape on which the movie is recorded.
What makes videotapes ineligible for curbside and municipal collection is the fact that the interior plastics and exterior shell are not all the same type of plastic. When you see the bottom of a bottle stamped with a number, that means the whole bottle is made of the same type of plastic. It can be sorted and processed with other plastics of the same type and made into something new.
But since videotapes are considered a “mixed material" item, the different plastics as well as metal components mean they have to be “de-manufactured," or broken down into separate pieces, to be recycled. A standard municipal recycling facility doesn’t have the capacity to do this, and it must be taken to a specialized location.
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What You Can Do
Of course, re-using comes before recycling, so it doesn’t hurt to see if local libraries, hospitals, and thrift stores have any interest in your old videotapes. But as DVD and Blu-Ray technology continually displaces VHS (likely the reason you’re getting rid of the tapes), such places are starting to turn away such donations.
But they can be recycled. If you’re fortunate enough to live within distance of a large and capable Electronics Demanufacturing Facility that collects computers, televisions, and other “e-waste," contact them and ask if they can process videotapes. If they cannot, you’ll have to ship your VHS tapes out to be recycled. Fortunately, they’re lightweight and fees for this are pretty low.
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VHS Tape Recycling Options
One of the leading services for mail-in videotape recycling is GreenDisk, which recycles just about any type of Technotrash (as they call it) you can imagine. GreenDisk handles everything from small (personal) to large (municipal) recycling tasks. Any amount of Technotrash weighing less than 20 pounds will be carefully disassembled and fully recycled (no offshore-shipping of hazardous parts) for a fee of $6.95 (plus shipping/packaging costs).
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VHS Reuse Alternatives
In the spirit of re-using before recycling, you can also donate your videotapes to Alternative Community Training, or ACT, a work training and social services program in Columbia, Missouri, that provides jobs and training to individuals with disabilities. ACT disassembles and then re-furbishes VHS tapes for sale. Or, if you are feeling crafty, you could incorporate parts of the videocassette into crafts such as knitting and gift-wrap embellishments.
Recycling old videotapes will free up some impressive shelf space. And next time a friend on a spring-cleaning binge asks, “Can videotapes be recycled?" you’ll know just what to say.
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“Recycling VHS tapes" : BeGreenMinded.com - http://www.begreenminded.com/2009/04/recycling-vhs-tapes/
“Donate Your Old Videotapes" : ACT - http://www.actrecycling.org/donations/tapes.asp
“Technotrash Pack-IT" : GreenDisk - http://www.greendisk.com/gdsite/pack-ITservices.aspx
“Commonly Recycled Materials" : The Consumer Recycling Guide - http://www.obviously.com/recycle/guides/common.html