Thursday, April 30, 2015

Springtime means taxes and tapes

Spring means two things in my household: tax time and top-to-bottom spring cleaning.
In my family I’m the “tax guy”; since I have the software and it does up to 20 returns, I end up doing everyone’s taxes. But this year it’s been a bit harder to meet the April 30 deadline; for over 3 weeks I’ve had a bad cold sapping my energy.
Luckily, my friend Elizabeth May, Green Party MP and leader, has managed to get me a filing extension to May 5 – and the good news is, it applies to all Canadians! So if the looming tax deadline was stressing you, now you’ve got a bit more breathing space. More on how this happened in next week’s column.
But despite 3 family members having versions of this cold, spring cleaning continues. This year, we’re tackling the dozens of old VHS tapes gathering dust on the bottom shelves. Years ago I had a VCR-DVD combo that could copy them over, but with everything else going on, never got around to doing it, and now that machine has gone the way of e-scrap. Yet there are still important memories to transfer: ultrasounds, family TV appearances, the full local broadcast of Live 8; things that need to be saved before the tapes are ditched forever.
These are not actually my tapes.
And that’s the tricky part: what to do with discarded VHS tapes? They can’t go in the blue box, yet we don’t want them clogging up landfill. And it’s not a trivial issue; more than 2 billion VHS tapes lurk in Ontario, a veritable mountain we can either bury or recycle.
That’s where Project Get Reel comes in. A Toronto start-up, this social enterprise aims to solve several problems at once, by hiring people who face barriers to employment to disassemble and recycle VHS tapes. There are a variety of metals and plastics inside each tape, each of which goes to a different recycling stream, but first each tape must be opened by removing, by hand, 5 metal screws. This kind of simple, hands-on work is an ideal job gateway for people whose physical or mental issues are career stumbling blocks, or who have personal situations (like needing child care, or being a new immigrant) that get in the way of most entry-level jobs.
There is still time, but just a few days, for you to personally help launch this project by visiting their crowdfunding site at, but only until Sunday May 3. With this funding they will get things ramped up by July. And to help, a supporter has just pledged to match all donations, so your money will count double!
So hold onto your VHS tapes just a little longer – don’t throw them out, recycling is just around the corner. Visit and sign up to receive information on how you can drop off your tapes. In the meantime, start transferring any important memories over to digital media so you can park it in “the cloud” where it can never get lost, so they say. There are many tape transfer services in town, if you just have a few, or if you have a whole library to convert, you can get the right software and connectors to hook your VCR to your own computer and convert them yourself. Let’s clear out those tapes, and recycle them!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Now's the time to clear out those VHS tapes"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

1 comment:

  1. A few weeks back, I was trying to tidy up the dumping ground of old technology known as my attic. While digging through this graveyard of old PCs and cables that no longer plug into anything, I found some VHS tapes containing movies I shot years ago. In the spirit of spring cleaning, I decided to put these movies onto DVD. VHS to DVD Transfer