Is collecting physical media environmentally-friendly?

With vinyl sales at a 30 year high and a worldwide cassette tape shortage, music fans are forced to question the sustainability of their hobby. Ultimately, their decision can either sustain an artist’s career or the planet, as posed by Pitchfork.

Records are made of PVC, or vinyl, which can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. The machines used to press the material into a record are powered by fossil fuels and chemically-enhanced water to prevent corrosion, creating an abundance of wastewater. After creation, records are then packaged using dyes, solvents, plastic and other material that poses harm to the environment. Finally, the trucks used to ship the records drive across the country, emitting carbon and other gasoline fumes into the air.

Artists have attempted to shine light on this issue, including Father John Misty. The first lines of “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” from his debut album consist of, “Try not to think so much about the truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record: all the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining, the high gloss, the tape and the gear.”

Several major companies have started making transitions to more eco-friendly methods of keeping records alive. Companies such as Ninja Tune, Viryl and Smashed Plastic are opting for steamless systems, a reduction of single-use plastics and toxic varnishes.

Despite this, you don’t necessarily have to stop collecting records. Shopping for records second-hand is a great way to build your collection ethically and discover older albums that could even be considered rare. Recycled Records is located at 604 Lighthouse Ave. and has an extensive assortment of previously-loved records to rummage through.

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