Graham Lewis, right, shows MP Mike Sullivan, left, a typical VHS dismantling workshop.

Dismantling VHS tapes may create job opportunities

But critics fear that it may lead to a loss of television history

There are many VHS tapes sitting in basements collecting dust, but Project Get Reel hopes to change that.

It plans to take unwanted VHS tapes, keep them out of landfills and turn them into employment opportunities in Ontario.

Some question whether this may destroy a part of Ontario’s television history.

Project Get Reel, which was introduced Thursday at the Learning Enrichment Foundation (LEF) in Toronto, began when co-founder David Neilson realized that recycling programs would take a VCR, but not VHS tapes. And the group says there are 2.26 billion VHS tapes in Ontario.

“Nobody is recycling tapes,” he said, so thought he’d try it himself.

“I worked away in my basement for a couple of years and finally found a way of dismantling them and identifying all the components we get out of them,” he said.

“A typical tape has a cardboard outer shell, which can be recycled, but once you get the tape itself, you actually have to unscrew the tape.

“There’s about 18 different pieces in there,” Neilson explained. The process can only be done manually.”

The project aims to make the environment greener, and improve Ontario unemployment rates.

“Two problems will be tackled with one,” she said.

LEF event manager Darri Beaulieu sees her organization benefiting from the project.

“It’s excellent, nice collaboration, it opens opportunity in terms of jobs,” Beaulieu said.

LEF is a community organization that helps with employment, starting a new career and it also operates 22 childcare centres.

The venture has received mixed feedback. Some video collectors went on the project’s Facebook page to express  dismay over losing the content on the tapes.

Lunchmeat, a publication that is focused on the celebration and preservation of the VHS format, recently blogged about losing valuable film history if Project Get Reel goes through as planned.

“You just don’t know what’s on these tapes Get Reel is trying to recycle, so it’s imperative to examine the content of the tapes,” said Josh Schafer, founder of Lunchmeat.

The Get Reel team has taken comments like this into consideration and is in talks with Retrontario, an organization that reviews and digitizes tapes and publishes the content for the province to see.

Retrontario plans on reviewing the tapes that are collected, digitizing them if the content is rare and then returning the tape to be recycled.

“It is very important that we do this, otherwise at the end of the day we would lost a huge chunk of Ontario television history, and it’s irreplaceable,” Ed Conroy, creator and curator of Retrontario, said.