Sales of vinyl records surpassed CDs for the first time in over 30 years in 2022 but an increase in sales means more potential waste.
Vinyl records typically contain 135g of PVC material and produce around 0.5kg of CO2 and Emily Waller of vinyl expert Rough Trade reveals all there is to know about getting rid of or repurposing your pre-loved records safely.
Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl records are non-biodegradable and don’t break down and decompose with time. This makes them hard to recycle as you can’t take them to regular municipal recycling centres or put them in a recycling bin.
And not only that, but recycling them can be dangerous, as trace elements of metals like nickel and silver in vinyl release toxic gasses when burnt – meaning they often end up in landfill.
To recycle vinyl records, you should check your council’s guidelines on disposing of non-biodegradable domestic waste or visit a specialist site near you to get rid of them safely.
While vinyl can’t be broken down completely, it can be broken down into small pellets and used to create other items, often in the construction industry.
Plus, you can only recycle vinyl up to eight times, and there is no perfect way to break down vinyl records completely. So, consider finding a new home for your used or pre-loved records first and only recycle vinyl if all else fails.
Sell – If you’ve got some old vinyl you no longer listen to, now’s a good time to sell it on an online marketplace or specialist second-hand music store. First, check it’s still in good working condition with no scratches. Next, see if there’s interest in your record from sellers online through a quick browse on the desired marketplace and price it up accordingly before advertising it with pictures and details of the artist and track list. If you have more than one record in an artist’s collection, it might hold more value to sell it as a job lot, as found in a recent study of eBay’s most expensive products sold in 2023.
Donate – If they don’t sell, donating them to a charity shop works, too. Old vinyl is one of the best sellers in charity shops, with Oxfam reporting that it had helped them raise £100,000 in 2018. What you might have grown tired of might be a great find for someone else. You could always take them back to your local record store, as they might be able to help find a home for your pre-loved vinyl. Rough Trade buys used vinyl in exchange for cash or in-store credit.
Upcycle – If your records are past repair, get creative and re-purpose your old vinyl records. For a record you’re particularly fond of, hang it in a frame and display it on your wall. Or, for those with less sentimental value that are old or broken, re-purpose them as home accessories, such as placemats, clocks, mirror frames or dream catchers.
Buy recycled records – If recycled properly, PVC can be used to create new records. Many online retailers sell vinyl records made from recycled materials and encourage customers to recycle their old products to help reduce the amount of plastic that finds its way into our oceans.