How to recycle VHS tapes and audio cassettes

Filed in Blog, Recycle by on July 15, 2013 9 Comments
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recycle vhs tapes and audio cassettesThe other week I had an email from a reader, Summer Fernando.

She wrote “I am always reading your site and your facebook posts and looking for new ways to reuse and recycle”.

Summer had been looking for ways to recycle VHS cassettes and audio cassettes and had missed our post from way back in 2010 when we wrote about The Recycling People.

She went on to share details of a company she came across called “Environmental media solutions” who will recycle up to 100 VHS tapes, audio cassettes, CDs and DVDs free of charge to householders. All you have to do is pack them up and cover your own postage charge.

I immediately contacted the company and spoke to Kim Cowley; who is the Business Development Manager, to find out more. I wanted to know what actually happened to the domestic VHS tapes and discs they recycled and what happened to the individual components.

Kim told me that the majority of their clients are professional media such as the BBC and ITV. She went on to say that they supply a complimentary service to the public, thanks to their founder Steve Everett, who wished to contribute to waste reduction beyond their business model.

All that they ask is that you deliver their tapes directly to them – either by post, courier or hand delivery; and to include a ‘domestic disposal form‘ with your media. Environmental Media Solutions is a private enterprise rather than a public service so, understandably, they cannot pay for the transportation of tapes to Bristol from around the UK.

Send to:

Environmental Media Solutions Limited
Unit 6 A&B Old Coachworks
Kingsfeild Lane
Longwell Green
Bristol
BS30 6DL

After speaking to a reader who sent a consignment to their old address, I would highly recommend you call them first on 0117 961 4724 to check this address is still valid.

Materials from the tapes they take in are separated and / or shredded and are ultimately returned to the manufacturing base in the form of plastics and metals.

Kim told me about the many further uses for the materials; where their grade and purity will dictate the breadth of options available.

For example, professional media tapes are traded and stored in polypropylene cases. These are extremely versatile plastics and once granulated, treated and re-moulded can find themselves in any number of household items.

The shells of cassettes such as VHS are a lower grade and therefore will have a more limited appeal on the polymers market. Still, these can return in the form of packaging and insulation.

Screws and springs of course, are much simpler and these once melted, are very easy to re-use as components in other goods.

Magnetic tape is and always has been the greatest challenge with recycling.  Many recyclers of audio cassettes and VHS tapes just take the plastics and screws and landfill the tape.

Fortunately, EMS have found a couple of solutions. Following shredding, becoming a constituent in the production of insulation materials and packaging is a good solution. The tape can also – again when mixed with other waste – be heated and moulded for use in rugged outdoor furniture and decking.

So there we have it; if it’s time to recycle all those old embarrassing videos of yourself or the endless episodes of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ you can create some loft space AND do your bit for the environment.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (9)

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  1. Katy says:

    For 100 VHS tapes, the parcel will weigh about 20kg and cost around £27 to send UK 2nd class. Just before people get too excited!

    Our council takes cassettes in the rigid plastics bin at recycling centres. I am not sure what they do with the actual tape, as the cassettes are probably too mixed in with general plastic for it to be separated into a clean/uniform resource during processing. I have seen various “cool” reuses of the inner tape such as weaving it on to an existing frame to make a chair, but as I understand it there are concerns about fire safety (if making furniture) and chemicals on the tape including chromium. However I am no expert!

  2. Mrs Green says:

    @Katy: Thanks for your comment, Katy. I appreciate costs are high, but know that *some* of our readers will ‘put their money where their mouth is’ if it satisfies their need to responsibly dispose of something. (it’s possible costs could be reduced with a service like http://www.p4d.co.uk/ ?)

    It’s great your council take the VHS tapes and audio cassettes and I’d be interested to hear what they do with them – if they send them to somewhere like EMS anyway, then it’s the perfect solution for you!
    I’ve seen people crotchet with the tape as well; like you say, not sure what the fire implications are ;)

  3. Katy says:

    Oh yes, if people are willing to pay to dispose in a zero waste manner then more power to them! I just thought it was worth mentioning, as I thought it was great until I investigated. Also locals in Bristol could deliver, so less cost there. We have polythene recycling locally who let you deliver (but postage charges are a bit less for plastic film anyway!)

    I’m glad this is one tricksy source of waste which will pretty much die out!

  4. Suzanne says:

    We are lucky to have the most excellent Butterfly Garden, just down the road from us, who also recycle video and a host of other products. http://www.thebutterflygarden.org

  5. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks Suzanne; that’s a brilliant looking place. I’ll check them out (and let you know when I’m heading over !)

  6. Janet Anderson says:

    You can recycle water filters at Robert Dyas ironmongery chain.

    You can include bits of cereals that might have gone a bit soggy, in flapjack or as crumble topping.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Hi Janet, Thanks for the tip about Robert Dyas; I’ll share that on our Facebook page too. And great idea about the bits of cereal; that’s a fab way to use them up!

  7. Cathy Buggs says:

    Why do you have to enclose a domestic disposal form? I don”t know if you have to download 1 but I couldn’t get 1.I’ve been sending tapes without the form but not sure if they’re acceptable. Also I’m trying to find a business that recycles vinyl lp’s.Do you know of anyone?

  8. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Cathy, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure about the form; you’d have to ask the company if it’s mandatory. For vinyl lps, I’ve not found anything, but there are lots of ideas on this site: http://www.recyclethis.co.uk/20070416/how-can-i-reuse-or-recycle-old-vinyl-45s

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