How To Recycle Cassette Tapes?

By Rebekah Pierce

There was a time when cassette tapes were all the rage. But with the rise of digital music, they’ve gone mostly out of style. If you have a few old cassettes lying around, don’t toss them in the trash! Here’s how to recycle cassette tapes so they can be put to good use. 

Why Do You Need To Recycle Cassette Tapes?

Why bother recycling cassette tapes in the first place – can’t you just throw them in the trash?

You can, but this isn’t the wisest move, nor is it the best for the environment.

Recycling VHS tapes and cassette tapes is important because they have a Mylar plastic tape that is coated with hazardous metals. The rest of the tape isn’t necessarily biodegradable either – it’s made out of #5 plastics that will take centuries to break down.

That said, it can be difficult to recycle cassette tapes because many landfills or recycling facilities won’t take them as recycled items. They don’t like to do anything with them because, if they sit in the landfill for too long, the toxic metals can seep into the ground.

Recycling tapes, for most facilities, also is not cost-effective. It takes hours (and a lot of manpower) to break down the tapes so that they can be recycled as plastic.

How To Recycle Cassette Tapes

Sadly, cassette tapes are not accepted at most local recycling facilities. There are some cities and municipalities that will accept tapes and disks as part of the electronic drop-off program, but  many do not.

So what should you do? Throw your cassette tapes in the trash? While this can be used as a last resort, it’s not ideal – especially if you care about the environment. Here are a few other options.

Use Green Citizen

Green Citizen offers a recycling service for both businesses and individuals. You can schedule a pickup of cassette tapes and VHS tapes (only if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area) or mail them in for a more hassle-free experience. 

The company uses the waste-to-energy incineration method that not only gets rid of the sensitive data on the tapes but also minimizes environmental impact and the items going into the landfill. 

Sell Old VHS Or Cassette Tapes

Another option is to sell old cassettes or VHS tapes. You can sell them online via a Craigslist ad, eBay, or even Facebook Marketplace.

Check With Music Stores

Most stores don’t sell VHS or cassette tapes any more (or even rent them). However, if you have some vintage tapes that are worth a decent amount of money, you may be able to sell or trade them back to those stores. 

You’ll have the best luck at old record stores or vintage shops that specialize in things like vinyl records, VHS tapes, and cassettes.

Reuse Your Cassette Tapes In Unique Ways

While there are still a few people out there in the world (probably not many!) who use cassette tapes as a recording medium, most do not. Because of this, you might want to find a fun way to reuse and repurpose your old cassette tapes instead. 

A few options?

  • Lights and lamps – the clear plastic windows in tapes are perfect for emitting light, letting you make a unique light or lampshade.
  • Wall display –  if your walls are looking a little bit drab and bland, why not spruce them up with some cassette tapes? Buy some shelves and you can arrange the shelf by color, alphabetically, genre, or some other method you prefer – you can even spray paint the entire thing for an artsy, eclectic, and truly personalized piece of decor. 
  • Upcycled planter – glue four cassette tapes together (or 10-20 tapes for a larger planter). This is a great way to grow things like succulents!
  • Storage boxes – you can even use old cassette tapes for some retro storage! Just glue the tapes to the outside of a cardboard box – easy is that! A cool vintage storage container.
  • Make a cassette tape wallet or purse – love vintage accessories? Transform your old tapes into a fun pursuit to carry around (more details in the video below).

Check The Local Library 

Local libraries are often more than willing to take old cassette tapes and VHS tapes off your hands, provided that they are in good condition. Check with them to see if they might want your old tapes.

Donate To Charity

Does your local thrift store or charity organization accept old VHS or cassette tapes? Check with them to see if you can drop them off. If you get a receipt, you can even write this donation off on your taxes!

Just about any charity should accept old cassettes or VHS tapes, but it’s a good idea to call around to make sure that’s the case first. Goodwill and the Salvation Army are good options to try. In some cases, Oxfam will also take old cassette tapes, though it’s not as common these days.

Have A Yard Sale

When all else fails, have a yard sale! You can sell your old cassette tapes for a few cents apiece, or offer a bundled discount to get rid of them all at once. 

Keep Them

One final option? You can always keep the tapes. Although they might be taking up space in your house, cassette tapes are now considered vintage – and in a few years, they’ll likely be considered antiques! You may want to hang on to the tapes so they can serve as a reminder of the simplicity of the past. 

What To Do With Cassette Tapes And VHS Tapes Before You Recycle Them

Before you recycle your old tapes, make sure you take a few extra steps to ensure that your information is safe. 

Consider uploading the content on the tapes to a digital format. Digitizing your tapes will let you keep your favorite songs and memories forever.

There are all kinds of services you can use to do this, like Legacybxo. This can also help you get any private or sensitive data off the tapes, if they were ones you recorded yourself.

Make sure all tapes are labeled so you know what’s what. 

If you have any old cassette tapes lying around, don’t throw them away! There are a few ways that you can recycle them and keep them out of landfills. We hope this article has given you some ideas on how to reuse those old tapes

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