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Vinyl sustainability impacts- what is the problem and what is Beggars doing about it?

The majority of our carbon emissions, accounting for 63% of our global footprint, stem from vinyl manufacture and shipping. To meet our 50% carbon reduction goal by 2030, transitioning vinyl to a sustainable form is imperative. So what are we doing on this? What options are there? And what obstacles do we need to overcome?

To understand that we need to look into what sustainability impacts are associated with record from raw materials used in manufacture to the end of it’s life- we call this Life Cycle Analysis.

Records today are still essentially made using the same process that was used when they were first mass produced 70 years ago- This process uses Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) which is heated and pressed into shape. There is some exciting innovation that completely reimagines the process favouring an injection moulded approach introducing the possibilities of using different types of plastic- these are in their infancy but we are working closely with suppliers to ensure this technology is the most sustainable it can be.

Traditional PVC, poses significant pollution and recycling challenges. Biovinyl, derived from plant-based sources, is touted as a sustainable alternative, but its full lifecycle impacts and recycling limitations need careful consideration. Despite being in its early stages, a significant proportion of our test pressings are now on biovinyl, with efforts underway to ensure its quality and sustainability before wider adoption.

Although PVC is one of the hardest plastics to recycle once it has reached the end consumer it is possible to ensure that it is used in the most efficient way minimising waste in the pre consumer phase. Reusing manufacturing offcuts is one such way in which we can be more efficient- products have been available for some time that regrind manufacturing offcuts and reuse them as a feedstock into the pressing process. Although these are a step in the right direction it is in many ways the least that we can do and shouldn’t be considered as a recycled product. There are also opportunities to take overstocked items and regrind them into the manufacturing process- at Beggars we try to ensure that our overstocks are minimised however we are working with our suppliers to set up the logistics needed to take these back into the manufacture process to make new records. We are also offering an ever-increasing number of releases that use 100% reground vinyl material.

Approximately half of the carbon emissions from traditional vinyl records come from the manufacturing process rather than the raw material itself. We collaborate with suppliers committed to sustainable practices, such as Optimal, a leading pressing plant in Europe. Their sustainable practices, including using plant-based inks and recirculating heat, align with our objectives. By adopting a whole lifecycle assessment approach, we aim to minimize emissions associated with record production while addressing raw material impacts. Shifting shipping methods to sea freight further supports sustainability goals.

In summary, transitioning vinyl to a low-carbon format is essential, with biovinyl emerging as a promising alternative. Sustainable manufacturing practices and a comprehensive lifecycle assessment approach guide our efforts to create a sustainable future for this cherished format.

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