How to Upcycle and Repurpose Old Audio Cassettes and VHS Tapes - FeltMagnet - Crafts
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How to Upcycle and Repurpose Old Audio Cassettes and VHS Tapes

I love searching for bargains at yard sales, thrift stores, and charity shops. As fast as I donate items, I acquire new ones.

Have You Got a Collection of Compact Cassettes or VHS Tapes?

Compact audio cassette tapes in the 1970s and 80s were revolutionary, and vinyl long-playing (LP) records were predicted to become obsolete as these small analog tapes took over. At that time you could buy not only prerecorded cassette tapes, but also blank ones to record your favorite song tracks. There was no better way to show your affection as a seventies teenager than to prepare a cassette of “special songs” for your loved one.

However, analog tapes have themselves become outdated. Digital recording is cheaper and more convenient than using physical tapes. Digital audio has replaced analog, and destroyed the market for tape cassettes. No-one wants to buy them now, new or second-hand, and it's become almost impossible to give them away.; thrift stores and charity shops don't want them. The result is more landfill.

Reuse or recycle your old cassette tapes, and save them from landfill.

Reuse or recycle your old cassette tapes, and save them from landfill.

Ways to Reuse Old ’70s and ‘80s Cassette Tapes

Recycling old tapes by breaking them into their constituent parts is not easy. The types of plastics used to make early audio tapes don't fit the categories accepted by most recycling depots. If you care about the environment and don't want to dump scarce resources, the only solution is to upcycle or repurpose these tapes.

The video below gives an example of how you could repurpose your old audio tapes. To make similar art and craft items you'll need a strong adhesive like Gorilla Glue. I find this cold glue is economical, and safe to use.

DIY Cassette Tape Art

10 Ideas to Repurpose Music and VHS Tapes

  1. If you're a gardener, protect your crops by stringing old cassette tape across bean-poles or tall sticks. Sunlight reflecting on the shiny tape and the wind making weird sounds blowing on it should frighten birds away,
  2. The cardboard inserts make good luggage tags. You can readdress your suitcases each time you go on holiday to ensure they arrive at the correct hotel.
  3. Lovers of retro-fashion can use the small tapes as a 70s style belt buckle. I have heard they sell well at craft fairs, although it depends on how expertly they have been upcycled.
  4. From the same 70s fashion era, you could make a pendant using some tape as the “necklace” and a cassette as the “stone”.
  5. The tape can be used instead of twine or string. It is strong and virtually unbreakable making it good for tying parcels. However, because it is so difficult to tear, keep it out of reach of small children as there is a risk of strangulation.
  6. Sailors could use lengths of the tape as “tell-tales”. Attach pieces to both sides of the jib and you can easily tell the wind direction.
  7. The tape can be used instead of knitting yarn. It is waterproof if knitted with a tight stitch. With patience, you can create unusual (if slightly uncomfortable) knitted hats and bags.
  8. The cassette boxes with tapes inside can be embedded into cement to create a unique and hardwearing path. Moonlight will reflect off the shiny tapes making the path sparkle at night.
  9. Be creative and design your own artwork.
  10. If none of these ideas appeal to you, you could copy Alex from London. He says on the BBC’s website “A few years ago I put all of my old tapes in a black bin bag outside my flat with a sign attached to it saying 'Dead media format, please help yourself'. The entire bag disappeared within an hour.”

Is There Any Value in Old Music Tapes or Cassettes?

Very few people are going to find a hidden treasure among their old VHS and Betamax tapes. However, you could be the one in a million that lands lucky. According to UK’s The Independent newspaper (March 31 2016) there are some old movies rare enough to be collectable. These were films that were banned almost as soon as they were released. Due to their limited number these banned movies have now become in demand. Most of these were in the horror genre. Titles such as “Journey Into Beyond” and “Betrayed (Taboo)” are said to have fetched up to £1,000 (US $1,400) each.

How to Recycle VHS Tape Cassettes

What Happened to Betamax Video Tapes?

Betamax video was a rival brand to VHS (Video Home System) technology in the 1970s and 1980s. Each company produced movie tapes that differed slightly from the other. Betamax and VHS cassettes were not the same size and required their own cassette players.

Consumers had to commit to one brand or the other, or else buy two (expensive) player-recorders. It was inevitable that a fierce format battle broke out. Many pundits say that Betamax was the better technology, but VHS won because it had the greater marketing spend.

Betamax ceased production in 2002. However, in the end VHS lost out to newer technologies such as CDs and DVDs and the last VHS tapes were produced in 2008.

Can CDs and Tapes Be Recycled Using Curbside Recycling Programs?

No. It’s unlikely your curbside recycling program accepts electronic media of any kind. Even though they are mostly made of plastic, CDs and tapes may also contain metals and other polymers. They require complex specialist recycling facilities to extract any of the materials for reuse.

Old audio and VHS cassette tapes are not easy to recycle, but can be repurposed.

Old audio and VHS cassette tapes are not easy to recycle, but can be repurposed.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.