Vinyl could turn green losing its namesake

A Dutch company innovates on a new pressing technique without using polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Posted on August 22, 2022

Vinyl sales hit a new high in December 2021 – and, as luck and the Fibonacci sequence would have it, record record cost soon followed with the release of Tool’s ultra-deluxe Inoculum of Fear. Amid the vinyl boom and resulting global shortage, a Dutch company thinks a new pressing technology could both alleviate the backlog and be more sustainable by foregoing the use of the material that gave his name on vinyl.

While streaming music is even worse for the environment (as is our general existence, etc.), it’s a little easier to connect the dots on vinyl damage when you can imagine the physical entity of it. a disc piled up in a landfill. As the BBC reports, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) involved in the pressing of vinyl has recently been identified as “the most environmentally harmful plastic”.

Green vinyl records innovates on pressing machines that do without polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – a less harmful material that is just as durable and easily recyclable. The new pressing technology also uses only 10% of the energy required by standard vinyl pressing as we know it today.

Likewise, it responds to increased demand with a capacity to produce nearly 40% more records than traditional pressing plants. “The pressing here is both faster and better for our planet,” owner Harm Theunisse told the BBC.

Alright, but how does that sound? The main reason PVC has remained a fixture in the industry despite its environmental hazards is its ability to reproduce such high quality recordings.

“The hurdle in finding eco-friendly alternatives to PVC has always been the desire to match the same rich sound quality while maintaining the hardness and durability of plastic,” said Sharon George, senior lecturer in sustainability at Keele University. George thinks Green Vinyl Records’ methodology is “a real step in the right direction”.

An early collaborator on Theunisse’s project, Record Industry factory owner Ton Vermeulen, says people have asked if records can be pressed from plastic taken from the ocean, and the sound quality approved by audiophiles is what keeps this “impossible” level of durability.

Of Green Vinyl Records’ technology, he added: “I think it’s the unknown aspects and the costs involved to invest in – because these machines are massively more expensive than the presses we use here. I’m not saying not that there is no place for such a new technique, but I have my doubts if [record] companies are getting into it. »

But Theunisse has just signed its first order with Warner Music Group, one of the three majors to which Jack White has called to create its own pressing factories. And although the entrepreneur recognizes the initial costs of innovation, he estimates a return on investment within 18 months. He wants future generations to be able to enjoy music on vinyl without compromising the planet.

“It’s for the kids,” Theunisse said. “Our world is heating up.”

Jack L. Goldstein