Not everything is quite what it seems…

Further investigating the ‘Eco-vinyl’ boom.

By Roy Gregory

Back in March, I wrote a blog entitled Grow Your Own… ( on the subject of the emerging, plant-based alternatives to vinyl, when it comes to pressing records. While the conclusions, derived from listening to conventional and ‘eco-vinyl’ versions of the same disc were generally positive, they were also based on a misapprehension. The record in question – the new Gallagher And Squire LP – is pressed on an ‘eco-vinyl’ alternative – just not a plant-based one. Thus, off popped the lid on a whole can of worms. Time then to step back and restore a semblance of order in what has turned out to be a far more complicated and opaque subject than it first appeared…

From the above, it should be obvious that there’s more than one material vying to take the place of vinyl for LP production. What you probably don’t know (I certainly didn’t) is that the number of contenders is up to five – and counting. And – like all things eco-friendly – not all those alternatives offer the same advantages, are equally sustainable or even use the same process! Time to take stock of the alternatives and establish the landscape.

Let’s start by looking at the conventional option – vinyl or PVC. The true environmental impact of plastics has been getting a lot of attention recently, and PVC is the third most commonly used plastic material. As well as it being oil-based, its production by the petro-chemical industry also involves a number of additives and processes with severe health implications, while some studies suggest that burning PVC-based waste is a major source of damaging Dioxins entering the atmosphere. So, all-in-all, the future for vinyl as the key ingredient in LP production looks none too bright. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that oil is going to get more and more expensive, while environmental legislation looks likely to impact both availability and the cost of production. No wonder there’s so much interest in finding an alternative, an interest that extends beyond the purely financial. In many cases, the pressure to switch to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly medium for pressing LPs is artist driven. Increasingly, high profile artists (like Billie Eilish) are getting involved in the issue, insisting on a more eco-friendly approach to pressing their records, something that plays directly into the surging interest in LPs amongst younger, eco-sensitive music consumers. With pressure coming from the price of raw materials, government legislation and consumer interest, the race to replace vinyl as the material of choice when it comes to LPs is well and truly on.

But first a note regarding names and nomenclature: while each alternative material or process has its own parent or brand name, these names are not necessarily front and centre when it comes to the sleeve notes on records. Increasingly, we see the blanket term ‘eco-vinyl’ being used to describe anything that isn’t ‘normal vinyl’. A bit like ‘bio’ or ‘green’ labelling in supermarkets, you need to dig way deeper if you are going to find out what’s really inside that sleeve.