How to recycle VHS tapes and audio cassettes

Filed in Blog, Recycle by on July 15, 2013 16 Comments
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recycle vhs tapes and audio cassettesEDITED SEPT 2015: Unfortunately this service from EMS is no longer offered. Please see our other post for details of ‘The Recycling People‘.

The 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
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 (16)

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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 ?)

    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.

  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:

  9. I contacted Environmental Media Solutions last week to say that on a visit to South Wales on the 15 May 2015 I would be calling to deliver over 200 used domestic VHS cassettes that I have had in my garage for a couple of years now. They told me that due to the fall in the prices of plastics they would be withdrawing their free disposal service in about four weeks time. Lucky I checked their website before leaving on Friday morning as the service has already been withdrawn.

    I think that means that there is now no disposal facility anywhere at least in England as far as I am aware where these cassettes can be recycled. Mine will now regrettably probably go to landfill, which I would have preferred to avoid

  10. Philippa says:

    There’s a story here too. Sad that it looks like the end of recycling for these.

    I have noticed that there are public libraries which are still loaning audio cassettes to the elderly – and people for whom learning another piece of technological equipment would be difficult. Perhaps this is another avenue to check out.

  11. L Walton says:

    I am very disappointed that they have withdrawn their domestic vhs recycling. I have used them a couple of times in the last year and loaded the car up again for a trip down there on Weds. It was only by chance that I went to their website to recheck the postcode and saw their notice.
    I hate the thought of all these tapes – many boxed sets – going to landfill and I think it is about time this matter was addressed by local councils as there must be thousands in landfill.
    Although some articles in the press suggest that vhs tapes may be worth money in the future in the same way that vinyl albums are now but people don’t have the space to wait for then.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Oh no! I’m so glad you checked the website before setting off. Let’s hope someone else comes up with a solution soon 🙁

  12. Kevin White says:

    Given that EMS have regrettably decided that they can no longer offer this service there seems very little point having this page on your website, certainly not a page titled “How to Recycle VHS Tapes”.

    I got very excited when I read initially read the page, delighted that there was somebody able to recycle the tapes. It was only when I went to the EMS website and couldn’t find anything about the service, and so came back here, and eventually I discovered the comments other people have made about the service being withdrawn, at the bottom of the forums (which I generally don’t read).
    Be helpful if you removed the page as it’s no longer relevant, or at least put a note at the top to say the service is no longer offered (but may be again if the price of plastic increases?)

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