Before The Needle: How recycled PVC is being used to make vinyl

By in Features





Before the Needle is a series that pulls back the curtain on the journey your favourite records embark on, from the studio to your turntable. Learn through videos, interviews, and photos, all straight from the heart of the action at The Vinyl Factory pressing plant in Hayes, London.

As music fans and artists alike become increasingly conscientious about sustainability, vinyl manufacturers are finding new ways to provide a top-tier listening experience whilst minimising the environmental impact. One such initiative is the Eco-Jazz PVC used by The Vinyl Factory pressing plant.

The process, which involves recycling PVC from the coloured waste of records previously manufactured in-house, sees increased sustainability as well as creating one-of-a-kind records due to the “lucky dip” nature of blending granulated colour trimmings. One of The Vinyl Factory’s latest records using Eco-Jazz PVC is The Gift, Live At Wembley by legendary Scottish artist Midge Ure.

“It’s crucial for all music companies to have honest conversations around their environmental impact — from their overall carbon footprint to the materials they use,” explain the folks at Chrysalis Records–the label issuing The Gift, Live at Wembley. “While vinyl records are far from single use, they are still a plastic product and attention towards their life cycle is necessary. Eco-jazz and similar initiatives are a step in the right direction to a more circular vinyl production process”.

To understand Eco-Jazz PVC better, we chatted with Alex Deninson–Operations Manager at Vinyl Factory Manufacturing–to find out more.

What is Eco-Jazz PVC?

Our new Eco-Jazz option is made up of 100% post-industrial in-house granulated waste colour PVC. We are sure no one really knows what this means, so, in layman’s terms, Eco-Jazz is recycled colour PVC made from the trimmings of pressed colour records.

All the excess PVC trimmed off of our colour records is collected and granulated into small pellets. These colour pellets are all mixed up with the colours we are currently pressing at the time. We then put this mix of colour pellets back into our legendary EMI 1400 presses that use a Werner & Pfleiderer double-screw extruder. This blends the pellets and allows us to press records with a unique blend of colours.

Why did you decide to start using Eco-Jazz PVC in the factory?

For a long time now we have been granulating our waste colour PVC and shipping it out to a licenced recycling specialist who has then been turning it into pipes, windows, playgrounds, etc. We always knew we could potentially put our colour waste back into the process, but there was never the demand. Once we had run some trials and found that we could press recycled colour records to the same quality as a normal colour record and the demand for recycled records started to grow in the industry, that’s when we decided it was time to launch Eco-Jazz.

We have also been granulating our waste black PVC and offering it as an alternative to virgin black PVC for years with a number of our customers requesting it as a more sustainable option for black records.

What’s the difference between this material and standard PVC?

Instead of being a solid colour made from virgin clear PVC mixed with highly concentrated colour masterbatch, our Eco-Jazz products use mixed colour granulated waste, made from 100% post-industrial waste.

Why would an artist or label seek out this PVC?

People are increasingly aware of the impact that we have on our finite planet. The music industry is also evermore conscious of its environmental impact and is coming under increasing scrutiny from consumers who demand change and a more sustainable listening experience. Eco-Jazz is a choice that artists and labels can make right now to reduce the carbon footprint of their records.

We understand there are limitations to the sustainability of our Eco-Jazz alternative–it is not the complete cure for the industry, but a tangible and immediate alternative on offer right now. As an industry, we are working with our neighbours up and down the value chain to make a more sustainable future for us all, but Eco-Jazz is a first step.

Learn more about The Vinyl Factory pressing plant.

Read more: A guide to the best vinyl accessories