Recycling VHS, VCR's, and old tech

Recently I went fishing in a storage closet in my house to find an item I thought my daughter would enjoy playing with, and found 4 medium sized boxes busting with VHS tapes that I had forgotten about. They are not old movies or family videos, no, they are legal video depositions. Each tape consists of a legal case of some kind being told from the viewpoint of the person being questioned. Always the same shot, just the deponent with a visible time/date stamp. Why do I still have them? Court Reporters are required by law to keep the stenographic record for 7 years. Certified Legal Video Specialists (CLVS) debate on our keeping them between 5 to 7 years. VHS tapes do not have a very long life, especially if not kept in an even 62 to 72 degree, not damp/not to dry, environment. For the non-tech or very young folks, VHS is short for Vertical Helical Scan, which references the head and tape scanning technique the machines/tape used. 

When I started working in Legal Video VHS was the standard format used for both the cameras and the backup copies made with a VCR. In 2004 I began using a mini DV camera with a VHS back-up because VHS was still requested. In early 2008 I stopped using VHS as a backup copy and went to a backup DVD burner. I now see a trend of backing up to a flash drive or something of a similar digital likeness which would help videographers everywhere lighten their gear bags even more. Starting 2012 I started using an SD card camera which reduces the need for physical storage and carrying stock. These days I only need to pack DVD stock until I switch to the digital back-up. 

So here I am, staring at these 5 boxes busting with VHS tape. What on Earth do I do with them? The thought of simply leaving them out for the trash truck created images of seeing the mess on the news in the near future choking some birds or wrapped around and killing off already endangered aquatic life. Next, I thought of them being in a dump melting under the summer sun and polluting the ground or even worse contaminating the water table. No, I can not simply have the trash collectors haul it off to some unknown to me destination. So, I began to ask around and found a few yahoos tell me to burn the VHS tapes. Obviously, they do not enjoy breathing clean air. I found fellow legal videographers, videographers in general, and editors all faced with the same quandary. Which has kept most of us holding onto these legal memories and forgotten stock longer than need be. 

A Videographer or Editor never feels old until they have to deal with disposing of old technology that was once the "IT" tech for them years ago. Something up and coming generations might not have to concern themselves with as much, but will be really pissed off at the previous generations if we do not dispose of the chemically created items in a safe fashion. Earth was doing very well till the start of the Industrial Revolution. It has been dying a slow death and trying to fight back. What if Earth didn’t have to fight back anymore, because we humans finally realized that this Earth is our mutual home and we are all affecting it and each others lives in some fashion. This spinning rock hurtling through space is our home, Earth is alive, and we must protect its life (our life) for ourselves and our children's, children, children, and beyond.

How to dispose of old VHS, mini DV, Beta, Digi Beta, CD’s, DVD’s, and old tech? Well, I could make a bunch of fish, windchimes, or some other art feature out of the stuff...if I had the time. Which I do not. 

After much research, I have found a few options and suggest for those reading this to also do a Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc search for your local options before setting your minds on the companies I have found. Why? Because thinking green and taking care of the environment cost money. I like to think of it as an investment in my great, great grandchild’s well being. I might be long dead by then, but what a world society does now can affect the life and ways of living of people 100 years from now. 
In my search to do the right thing, I found many suggesting to bring the old tech to Goodwill and Thrift shops. However, I’m sure they receive enough old useless items and recycling old VHS cost money. There are some public libraries that accept the donation of old VHS movies. Just no legal videos, please.
Search Earth is a great site full of information to help people help the Earth. At the top of the home page click on “Recycle” type in VHS or CD and then your nearest city and state, then click on search. I found a very large list and was surprised to find Best Buy too. I know they take in old electronics, and give the customer a recipe for an end of year tax write off. However, there is no detail on whether or not the locations that pop up charge for dropping off  VHS, VCR’s, CD’s, DVD’s, etc. I suggest calling before you go through the trouble of packing the truck, and spending the gas.
CD Recycling is just that, CD’s and DV’D’s, and the packaging they come in. CD Recycling also has this great video on how to prep your old CD tech for recycling, and what they do with the end result.
CD Recycling recycles the paper, cardboard, and the cases for CD’s and DVD’s as well, and looks as though they do not have fees for sending in your old tech. Most likely due to how they process the tech and make their income by selling the reconstituted product.
Green Disk takes all kinds of “techno trash” however best to check their site first and even contact them before getting too involved. They do require you to set up an account and “due to set-up costs, the minimum order size is $30. Smaller amounts may be accepted upon approval by GreenDisk Purchasing.”
Recycling Services is located in Pottstown, PA and very quick to return my call. There is a fee of $10 a square foot. Jim described it as a case of beer size which I found amusing since one of my 5 boxes is a beer box. 

With that, it is time to make some calls and get these boxes of depositions out of my home. Clearing space is always a happy day in the life of a videographer, editor, and court reporters who remember the paper days. Good luck finding your local old tech recycling center and thank you for thinking/being green. 


This is a link to a fun back story of the VHS tape;

A fun fact about VHS movie releases;
“The last major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS was "A History of Violence" in 2006” ~ Geoff Boucher 

September 2016 this blog post was part of the NCRA's monthly magazine :-D
Although this is not my first time being published, this is my first 8x10 two page spread!
Thank you to my readers <3 Remember to follow Invictus Films online too for more updates on what I'm part of. #SupportIndieFilm #SupportTheArts

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Comment by Glen Warner on August 24, 2018 at 15:37

Hi, Chris.

It's always good to see something you've written in print. It's even better when it is accompanied by a nice, fat check! Miss those days ....

Somewhere out there are a couple of articles I wrote for MacTech magazine about a programming environment called RealBasic (now XoJo). $250 each.


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