Sustainability drive is putting a fresh spin on vinyl production

Vinyl sustainability
(Image credit: Key Production)

A new survey has revealed that two thirds of music lovers would buy more vinyl records if they were made more sustainably.

The Key Production study comes after Billie Eilish hit the headlines after slamming the the “wasteful” practice of artists releasing a multitude of vinyl packages in an interview with Billboard - and it seems greener vinyl options are something people want to see more of.

The survey was carried out between February and March this year, with 503 people taking part and found that 69% of responders would purchase more records if they were manufactured with a reduced environmental impact.

In addition, 77% reported they’d pay more for sustainably produced vinyl and that although there has been an emphasis on heavyweight 180g vinyl products in recent years, 83% didn’t perceive heavier records being a more valuable prospect.

Key Production Group CEO Karen Emanuel says: “As consumer awareness of environmental issues continues to grow, it is evident that there is a substantial market opportunity for eco-friendly vinyl records. 

“Regarding 180g records: while this is often seen by the industry as a more sought after product, this survey shows that the industry is actually getting it wrong as consumers aren’t valuing the weight as they think. High quality records can be made at 140g, and this slightly lower weight can have a hugely positive impact across the whole supply chain.”

Key Production Group’s strategy and sustainability director John Service adds: “What we’re seeing is a consumer shift towards a demand for physical music made with reduced impact. 

“Vinyl can be made more sustainably with new compounds which replaces the fossil-fuel ingredients, and packaging can be made with completely recycled materials. 

“With the increasing demand, we’re here to work with artists, labels and other stakeholders to ensure we are creating high-quality physical music that is produced as sustainably as possible and meets the needs and values of today’s music consumers.”

Vinyl can be made more sustainably with new compounds which replaces the fossil-fuel ingredients

John Service

The drive for greener vinyl has also made headlines in New Zealand, where Auckland-based store Holiday Records is turning its focus away from traditional fossil fuel produced PVC to make vinyl, and on to biovinyl - vinyl that can be created from bio-resins such as wood pulp or recycled cooking oil.

Joel Woods from Holiday Records tells Stuff their goal is to eventually scrap using PVC vinyl altogether and create 100% of their records using biovinyl.

Woods says: “We hope to think that these products aren't single-use and they don't go back to the bin, they get kept and they get passed on to generations so hopefully a lot of them avoid going to the dump. 

“In saying that, they also do require fossil fuels to make, so when we changed from normal PVC to biovinyl that sort of eliminates the impact in terms of the raw materials that we use.”

Eilish previously revealed that vinyl copies of her new album Hit Me Hard And Soft will be made from recyclable or recycled compounds, while the packaging has been created using recycled paper and board with raw, plant-based ink and dispersion varnish also used in its production - a move that other artists could replicate.

Woods adds: “I'm sure depending on who the artist is, if they have a bit of sway, they can demand it. It’s up to the artist and up to the label to make that call and we obviously offer it as much as we can. 

“It's not a lot more expensive than standard black vinyl. It's kind of $1 more, which is about the same as a coloured record.”

Holiday Records have also started their own vinyl recycling programme.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.