What to do with a problem like VHS Cassette Tapes
Moving towards more circular economy presents a series of challenges, one of which is dealing with hard to recycle products that are the legacy of old technologies, for example the humble VHS cassette tape.
Most households have a stash of old video cassettes in the attic, garage or spare room that are just gathering dust as technology has moved onto DVDs and now online streaming services. VHS tapes, like so much outmoded technology, are too ubiquitous to be valuable, and not nearly old enough to be interesting. VHS tapes just don’t a market value anymore.
A recent BBC One Show feature on this topic discovered that few charity shops take VHS tapes anymore as there is little re-use demand for them as fewer people have working VHS players. There are some isolated bespoke examples of using VHS tapes in buildings, art installations and making other products such as chairs or gardening raised beds but this is not a realistic solution for the majority of the 1.5 billion VHS tapes in the UK.
Even more alarming than a workable re-use solution is that there does not appear to be a recycling option in the UK just now. VHS tapes consist of three main materials; the magnetic tape and various types of plastic & metal that make up the casing. So what exactly is the problem with recycling them?
Plastics and metal recycling are established processes so that is not really the issue. The magnetic tape is coated in organic solvents and some metals which can be potentially hazardous. Recycling facilities for magnetic tape, as far as we can ascertain, don’t exist in the UK, we would be delighted to be corrected on that. Add to this the time and resources and infrastructure necessary to collect, break up and sort the various materials and you realize that VHS tapes were not designed to be recycled.
If there is a workable solution to recycling of VHS tapes on a large scale then we would love to hear about it and help promote it to the Scottish public.