Dear Umbra,

What to do? I’m a child of the late ’70s, and one of the last to remember what it was like to exchange a mix tape at age 15. Now I’m hitting my 30s, and realize I still have that Color Me Badd tape. I really want to chuck it, but don’t have the heart to put it in the trash. What’s a girl to do? Where can I send my shamefully-bad-taste-in-music tapes?

Patricia O.
North Plainfield, N.J.

Dearest Patricia,

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Hey, sis, what’s this?

Photo: iStockphoto.

One woman’s trash is another’s treasure. We can’t say it often enough. As a person who bought a Stevie Wonder cassette tape for 99 cents at Goodwill and then proceeded to obsessively listen to it in the car, to the point where any passenger would have been driven mad, I implore you to paw through your tapes and donate any recognizable ones to your local thrift shop. It seems like no one plays cassette tapes any longer, but it’s not true. That tape was the center of my life for several months. Someone wants your Color Me Badd tape, even though you don’t, and I’ve never heard of them. (They’re a band? Will it someday come to light that aliens overtook the planet in the 1980s, without us noticing? How else can we explain bi-level haircuts?)

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

I doubt your local thrift store will be interested in mixed tapes scrawled with unhelpful titles such as “Summer ’84 Hot Hot Hot,” however. But you might check with schools to see if they have any need for erased tapes — and definitely check with the library when you are ready to get rid of old movies on VHS.

If you’re willing to send audio and video tapes through the mail to a reclamation organization, you do seem to have a few choices. Readers, please double-check these before piling everything into a box and toting it to the post office. As Color Me Badd themselves can attest, times can change, and so can businesses.

Here are three places to start your search: I mentioned GreenDisk before, when we talked about CD case recycling a couple of years back. They take all sorts of “e-waste” from consumers, so all ye willing to mail, look over yon site. Two other organizations are Lacerta, based in Massachusetts, and Ecodisk, based in Washington state. Check out the steps involved: industry, not the individual, is the primary target here, so you may not have enough waste to make it worth their while. But don’t forget all your friends stuck with the same dilemma. Perhaps you can perform a community service and get a giant pile of tapes together to mail. Don’t forget to hold a dance party before you bid a fond farewell to your teen years.