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First solar-powered vinyl record press built in US

Dave Newell, a Florida-based musician and avid record collector, has, alongside environmentalist wife Betsy Bemis, created the first solar-powered vinyl record press in the US. They call it ‘Audiodrome’.

The first sustainable vinyl record press has opened in the US for Earth Day, and it has nowt to do with Billie Eilish, Chris Martin, or any other outspoken eco-conscious artist.

Dave Newell, a humble musician and record collector hailing from Gainesville, Florida, and his wife Betsy Bemis decided to fulfil their long-held ambition of printing records with little-to-no carbon footprint this month.

The pair hope their new solar powered presser, Audiodrome, will make the industry’s golden standard of physical media a little greener, and that artists and manufacturers can begin to reverse vinyl’s ecologically negative rep in the States.

Whether we’re talking about your folks’ Pink Floyd collection from the 1970s, or your Taylor Swift record off the shelf at Target last week, chances are both have required the use of fossil fuels, carbon black colouring, and copious amounts of ink and cardboard to come to life.

In-fact, since the very inception of vinyl, production methods have remained essentially unchanged.

The majority of factories still use inefficient steam powered machines and produce toxic wastewater, the records themselves are mostly made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – which contains carcinogenic chemicals – and some still use lead as a stabiliser during pressing.

Overall, the traditional production process is said to generate roughly 2.2kg of GHG emissions per record. That doesn’t take into account the packaging or shipping needed to get the vinyl under the customer’s needle for the first time either.

Having fully delved into this rabbit hole of vinyl’s environmental impact, both Newell and Bemis decided that seeing their record printing vision come to life would depend on one major condition: that their business was as ‘thoughtful and mindful’ as possible.

With that in mind, the couple aimed for maximum sustainability across all facets of the operation.

The vinyl press they bought was provided by a company called Viryl and is steamless, requiring little water and no fossil fuels no function. Bemis also procured special shrink wrap made from sugarcane and found green alternatives to create vinyl plastic sleeves.

The real coup de grâce, though, is the location they settled on.

Dave Newell and Besty Bemis, founders of Audiodrome Record Pressing, a solar-powered vinyl pressing plant.
Credit: Betsy Bemis

Audiodrome resides in an office park called San Felasco Tech City, which houses workspaces that run exclusively on a network of solar trees. Its neighbouring businesses include a biomedical research lab, a brewery, and an engineering company.

This crucial detail elevates Audiodrome to the status of being the only solar-powered vinyl press in the US with no energy-related emissions to speak of. There are examples of similar companies in Europe, such as Deepgrooves in the Netherlands, but this is the first of its kind in the birth-nation of vinyl.

‘Solar was the big one. It was something we deeply wanted but it was in the “we’ll get there, eventually” column,’ Bemis explained. ‘We didn’t, in our wildest dreams, think we would have the fortune of having it on day one.’

There’s no denying vinyl’s recent renaissance has been great for artists and local music sellers, but its environmental impact remains a significant caveat.

Hopefully, breakthroughs like this can inspire record companies and musicians to become a little more innovative and considerate.