How to Upcycle and Repurpose Old Audio Cassettes and VHS Tapes
10 Ideas to Repurpose Audio and VHS Tapes
- If you are 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,
- 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.
- 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.
- From the same 70s fashion era, you could make a pendant using some tape as the “necklace” and a cassette as the “stone”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be creative and design your own artwork.
- 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.”
Have You Got a Collection of Compact Cassettes or VHS Tapes?
If you grew up in the ‘70s or ‘80s you will remember compact audio cassette tapes. They were so revolutionary at the time that vinyl long-playing (LP) records were predicted to become obsolete as these small analog tapes took over. 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However, analog tapes themselves become outdated. They gave way to digital in the eighties and nineties. Digital recording was the newer, cheaper and more convenient kid on the block. It took over the audio market and made tape cassettes seem old-fashioned.
Recently there has been a mini-revival of interest in vinyl records. However, the same is not true for audio and VHS cassettes. No-one wants to buy them and it is almost impossible to give them away. Even thrift stores and charity shops do not want them. The result is more landfill.
People keep their audio tape collections for years for sentimental reasons but boxes of old cassettes (often hundreds of tapes in each collection) take up valuable space. When moving house or downsizing, these old collections usually get thrown in the trash. So, what can you do to prevent this waste?
3 DIY Craft Ideas From Cassette Tapes
DIY Ways to Reuse Old VHS Video and Audio Cassette Tapes
The video above shows three simple ways to repurpose your old audio tapes. I particularly like the idea of making a cellphone desk stand out of the tape box-cover. Without this nifty holder, my phone frequently got lost under files and other stuff. This way it is always in view and makes my mobile phone a conveniently visible clock too.
The clip below shows another easy idea that is great if you have a houseful of kids. The plastic cassette covers are used to hold a variety of door-signs. A studious teenager can put a “do not disturb” sign on their door and then change it to “welcome” when they are ready for their siblings to bother them once more.
Recycle an Audio Cassette Into a Super Cool Door Sign
Repurpose and Upcycle ’70s and ‘80s Tapes
If you have an old tape player, you can enjoy listening to the music of another era. However, the old machines are no longer manufactured and it is difficult to find a second-hand one.
Recycling the tapes is also not straightforward. The types of plastics used to make early audio tapes do not fit the categories accepted by most recycling depots. If you care about the environment and do not want to dump scarce resources, the only solution is to upcycle or repurpose these tapes.
How to Make a Retro Purse Out of Audio Tape Cassettes
Sonic Fabric Made From Audio Tape Thread
A conceptual artist, Alyce Santoro, has a whacky idea for upcycling old audio cassette tapes. She creates sonic fabric by blending 50% cassette tape with 50% polyester thread. The resulting material has a strong and distinctive weave although it does not play music. Alyce is interested in the sounds produced past present and future in the making of this fabric.
She says "It occurred to me to literally weave a fabric made of sound; weaving using tape as weft and cotton thread as warp. The resulting material was quite surprising. It felt like a light canvas, but had a beautiful, mysterious sheen; I called it sonic fabric."
The video below demonstrates the noisy weaving looms that are needed to cope with the coarseness of this thread. Ms. Santoro used J. C. Lafond Company Weavers of Providence, New England to manufacture her unusual yarn.
Sonic Fabric Factory
Is Your Old Tape or Cassette a Valuable Collectable?
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.
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.