UK firm Evolution claims to have produced the world’s first bioplastic vinyl record, reducing the need for highly toxic PVC.
The new bioplastic vinyl by Evolution has been endorsed by NGO Music Declares Emergency, a climate change campaign group set up in 2019 by artists and music industry professionals.
“If Evolution can deliver an alternative guilt-free vinyl, it could get rid of one of the key polluting elements of the music industry completely,” the NGO’s co-founder Lewis Jamieson told AFP.
Currently, all vinyl records are made from Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which according to Greenpeace is “the most environmentally damaging plastic”, as its production releases toxic, chlorine-based chemicals that are accumulating in the environment and food chain.
In 2021, vinyl sales surpassed $1 billion last year in the United States alone. Some record companies anticipated the vinyl revival that began in the mid-2000s, and found themselves scrambling to secure PVC, without regard for safety records.
Author of “Decomposed”, a book on the environmental impact of the music industry, Kyle Devine, said the PVC for 90% of US vinyls in 2015 came from a Thai company that was “pouring pollution into the Bangkok river”. “PVC is an especially nasty plastic to make. It’s a difficult one to dispose of, to recycle or decompose,” he told AFP.
Devine added that it would be a mistake to undermine the current dominance of streaming and digital music in the industry’s climate impact. “Digital data still takes up space and uses energy. In fact, given the current size and spread of the music industry, it’s likely more environmentally-taxing than ever before”.
After almost five years of testing due to delays caused by the Covid pandemic, Evolution released the first 20 records made with the bioplastic, and adds that they are close to matching regular records.
“It presses the same as PVC,” said co-founder Marc Carey. “The final piece of the puzzle is there is a little bit of surface noise when you play the record so we are working on that. We think we are two weeks away from finalising the recipe.”
Even as Music Declares Emergency is clear that changing the production of vinyl records is a small take on climate change, Jamieson said such innovations were symbolically important.
“It reminds people that thinking sustainability doesn’t mean you have to live in a mud hut and have no fun,” he said.