Cassette tapes take up space in landfills when they are thrown away, but components of them can be recycled, which saves space and reduces landfill usage. VHS tapes were once the dominant means of watching recorded video and recording television shows, but digital storage techniques have largely supplanted them.
Few organizations offer cassette tape recycling services, and those that do sometimes charge money. However, owners can generally recycle their own tapes. After the cassette tape is opened, the plastic components can be placed with other plastic items. The black tape that holds the recorded content, however, cannot be recycled and must be thrown out.
The sheer volume of cassette tapes being replaced makes recycling worthwhile for those concerned about landfills. Plastic in landfills breaks down slowly, but it releases methane and carbon dioxide. Some landfills are able to capture released methane and burn it to generate electricity, but this process generates carbon dioxide as well.
Cassette tapes degrade over time, so people interested in archiving recorded content may want to consider converting their tapes to digital. Digital information is far more reliable; if it can be read, it's typically as pristine as when it was first recorded. CDs and other means of storage, however, have limited life spans, so it's important to make backups before they degrade.