What to do with your old magnetic tapes

What to do with your old magnetic tapes

August 12

Let’s say you’re one of the smart ones. You read through our careful look at disk vs. tape and realized the inherent advantages of disk-based backups. Congratulations! You did the right thing by standardizing all of your clients on hard disk. But there’s a problem. Now you’ve got hundreds of little tape cartridges lying around. What can you do with all of these? They’re useless garbage right?

Not quite. In fact, there’s plenty you can do with old magnetic tapes. First, you’ll want to erase the contents if you can, then you’ll need to crack the cartridge and get to the tape itself. It’s really quite durable and can be woven into tough fabrics. Now that you’ve got miles of extra magnetic tape, here are five awesome things you can do with it.

Note that many of these suggestions use the tape from inside of VHS or cassette tapes, but the tape inside your data tape cartridges will serve the same purpose. Let’s take a look.

Bags and Accessories

A company called Re-tape weaves together the tape from old VHS cartridges to create everything from bags to phone cases. Another company called Sonic Fabric makes very nice looking and durable ties from old cassette tapes. Show your disdain for tape by dismantling one and wearing its entrails around your neck in the classiest way possible.

Art installations

Sonic Fabric is also responsible for creating fully wearable clothing made from used cassette tapes that appear in their various art installations. Another artist named Zilvinas Kempinas also built a giant tunnel using miles of VHS tape for an art installation in his native Lithuania. Magnetic tape art has even been featured in the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, which featured a really neat series of VHS-related art installations 2012. Interested in music? Check out these portraits of musicians made of tape ripped from old cassettes. Maybe you can use your data tapes to make portraits of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or your favorite computer geek.


A tip from Recycle This in the UK suggests ripping the magnetic tape from a VHS tape (or data tape in your case) and letting it hang from a tall structure in your garden. The noise of the tape strands touching each other is thought to irritate birds and therefore keep them from your plants.


After you’ve worn yourself out from switching all your customers to a proper backup and storage method, you might feel like having a seat. Why not build a chair using all of that extra tape? Photographer Kez Allen’s photo on Flickr shows how easy it is to build a mesh seat for your chair using magnetic tape.


If all else fails, you can always take them to the proper recycling facility to be broken down and made useful again. Who knows? They might even be made into plastic casings for hard disks. The other option would be to donate them to your great-grandfather—he’s probably the only one still using them. What about your other old gadgets? How do you get rid of them? This great Mashable article will help.

What sort of neat things have you done with old tapes?

Photo Credit: Hades2k via Compfight cc

  1. Casey Morgan on

    Hey Dom, depending on where you’re located there are a number of ways you can dispose of VHS tapes. Most thrift shops will take them off your hands, assuming they’re actual movies and not simply blank tapes. Another option is to use Greendisk (, which allows you to mail in your old VHS tapes for recycling. Beyond that, there may be some options specific to your location (there are waste recycling facilities that can handle this type of trash all over), a quick Google search might reveal some of them.