Are Vinyl Records Recyclable? Let’s Find Out!

PVC (polyvinyl chloride, popularly known as vinyl) is the most versatile plastic on Earth and was used extensively by the record industry. While most people have switched to digital music, many of us continue to store our vinyl records at home, unsure what to do with them.

Vinyl records are non-recyclable. This is because the materials they are made of are toxic and harmful to handlers, and most recyclers are either unequipped or unwilling to handle this material. 

So to many who were wondering, ‘Are vinyl records recyclable?’ they aren’t. In this article, I’ll explore why recycling vinyl records isn’t a viable option and look at what you can do with your old records instead.

Why You Can’t Recycle Vinyl

As mentioned, to properly recycle vinyl records, you’ll need to find a recycling facility that is specifically designed to handle it – and doing so can be challenging.

Most companies accept PVC in the form of banners, gift cards, and old construction material. These forms of PVC are easier to break down and repurpose, and finding a company to handle them isn’t much of an issue. 

However, vinyl records are made from thicker layers of PVC and emit a lot more toxic fumes when melted. The poisonous gases and heavy metals they give off will need to be contained because recycling can release these toxins into the air or underground. Finding a facility that is adequately prepared to handle this complex recycling process can be almost impossible.

This is why vinyl records need to be kept out of the waste stream – doing so helps avoid further pollution.

Alternatives to Recycling Vinyl Records

As we’ve established, vinyl records can’t be easily recycled, and they can be harmful if left unattended. Luckily, there are a few alternatives to recycling records.

Reselling

Selling your old records is an effective way to ensure they’re put to good use. While it may seem like vinyl records have gone out of vogue, many of today’s artists are producing music on LPs thanks to the superior sound quality.

You’ll likely be able to find plenty of record stores looking to buy older vinyl records to add to their collection. 

The challenge with selling your records is finding a fair price, as the cost will differ based on the value of the vinyl and the buyer’s need for the said record. However, reselling is a viable option, and you won’t have to worry about dumping your records in a landfill.

If you’re thinking of reselling, here are a few options you should consider:

Record Stores

The most obvious buyer would be your local record store, and you’re sure to find buyers willing to pay a fair amount for your collection. Snoop around a little, find out what kind of music the store is looking to stock up on, and see if you can provide them with suitable records.

Online Stores

The internet comprises a vast landscape of potential record-buyers – you just need to find them. For example, Hard to Find Records is a website that offers cash in exchange for your records. They even have a wanted list to let sellers know which specific LPs they’re willing to pay top dollar for.

Discogs is another website where you’ll be able to sell certain records, depending on what they’re looking for.

eBay

While it may not seem like the right marketplace, you never know who’s looking for a specific record on eBay. Consider posting your records on eBay, especially if you’ve got some older LPs that aren’t too popular with record stores. 

You may get lucky and find a buyer looking to buy the record you’re selling. 

While it may seem like selling isn’t so profitable, you will, at the very least, ensure that your records end up in a store and not the dumpster. 

If your records have no resale value, consider donating them to local thrift stores that deal with old LPs. Either way, your music will end up on a shelf where it may be of use to someone else.

Upcycling

Upcycling is the creative alternative to selling your old LPs, and there’s a lot you can do with used vinyl records. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Book Holder

You can use two vinyl records to make a nifty and easy-to-dismantle book holder. You’ll need the following:

  • Boiling water
  • 2 vinyl records
  • Block of wood 

Here are the steps to make a book holder:

  1. Immerse one-third of the vinyl record in boiling water for a few minutes. The portion immersed in water will be malleable when you take it out. 
  2. Fold the record at this portion and use the wooden block to press down hard to even the surface.
  3. Do this with both records and place them parallel, with the folded portion facing inward. 
  4. Stack a few books between them. 
  5. The straightened parts of the records will keep your books in place.

Clock

Clocks made from old vinyl records look classy and neat and are pretty straightforward to assemble. You’ll need a bit of drilling knowledge for this one, but this idea shouldn’t take much time if you’ve got the proper equipment. 

Watch this YouTube tutorial on how to go about building a vinyl record clock:

Vinyl Bowls

Vinyl record bowls are another straightforward DIY idea that takes little effort but turns an old record into a slick everyday household item. 

Heat is the crucial element in morphing vinyl into different shapes and sizes. Here, you’ll use an oven to heat the vinyl before changing its shape.

Watch this YouTube video to know more:

Here are the steps on how to make bowls using vinyl:

  1. Select a bowl with the shape and size that you want your vinyl record to replicate. 
  2. Place the bowl upside down on cookie paper and the vinyl on top of the bowl. 
  3. Put this arrangement in the oven for about ten minutes.
  4. Ensure to put on gloves before you handle the hot record. 
  5. Take the bowl out, turn it over, and place the vinyl inside, using the pressure of your hands to mold the record into a desirable shape. 
  6. This bowl works best as a fruit or candy holder, thanks to the hole at the bottom.

Coasters

Vinyl records make for neat little coasters, and the best part is you’ll have an assortment of different ones you can use while serving drinks.

Here, again, the critical element is heat. The process is similar to making a bowl, and you will start by placing the record on the bowl before putting it in the oven. That said, making coasters is a bit more nuanced than making a bowl, as you’ll have to be careful to avoid melting the center of the record.

Here is how you can make coasters using vinyl records:

  1. Once the outer edges of the record have melted, you can cut it out using scissors or a knife. Carve the exteriors carefully, so you’re left with the circular middle. 
  2. You can use sandpaper to smooth out the edges and give your coasters a neat finish.
  3. If the middle starts to warp, you can straighten it out by placing it between two books or weighted blocks of wood till it reverts to its original smoothness.

Photo Frames

Using a vinyl record as a photo frame is perhaps the least-involved yet satisfying DIY idea. All you have to do is cut out the edges of your photos and try making them circular. Now, stick this photo in the middle of your record, and you’ve got a neat new photo frame. 

You can hang this up on your wall or melt one side and bend it away from the photo side to create a stand.

Final Thoughts

While vinyl records aren’t recyclable, there are various ways to repurpose them and ensure they don’t pollute the Earth by ending up in a landfill.

All it takes is a bit of creativity, and with a bit of effort, you can find ways to prolong the use of these records.