Billie Eilish: New album announced with eco-friendly vinyl – what is a sustainable record?

Billie Eilish: New album announced with eco-friendly vinyl – what is a sustainable record?
Billie Eilish: New album announced with eco-friendly vinyl – what is a sustainable record? Copyright Instagram - Billie Eilish
Copyright Instagram - Billie Eilish
By David Mouriquand
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Billie Eilish has shared details of her new album ‘Hit Me Hard And Soft’, as well as the eco-friendly vinyl practices she’ll be adopting for the release of her third LP. Can it represent a step forward in more environmentally conscious practices in the music industry?


Following her recent win at the Oscars for the Barbie ballad ‘What Was I Made For?’ (and thereby becoming the youngest person to have won two Oscars at the age of 22), Billie Eilish has announced that her highly anticipated third studio album, 'Hit Me Hard and Soft', will be released on 17 May.

The news arrived via Instagram, where Eilish shared the striking album artwork showing the pop singer underwater with an open door above her. In the caption, she wrote that she will not drop singles in advance of the release.

“I wanna give it to you all at once,” she captioned the image. “I truly could not be more proud of this album.”

‘Hit Me Hard And Soft’ is the follow-up to her 2021 release ‘Happier Than Ever’ and will arrive in digital and limited physical variants.

According to Eilish’s official website, ‘Hit Me Hard And Soft’ will be released on eight different vinyl variants which will be produced “with the most sustainable practices available”.

Indeed, all physical variants of 'Hit Me Hard and Soft' will be made of 100% recyclable materials.

“The standard black variant is made from 100 per cent recycled black vinyl,” reads the statement. “The remaining seven colored vinyl will be made from ECO-MIX or BioVinyl. The former is created using 100 per cent recycled compound made of leftovers from any color which cannot otherwise be used.”

“These pieces are recycled and re-used for production of future discs; therefore, every disc will be unique and look different from the last. Additionally, Billie is using recyclable compound for her single LP colors, collecting all first run scraps to re-use for additional runs later. BioVinyl helps reduce carbon emissions by 90 per cent vs. virgin vinyl by using non-fossil fuel materials like used cooking oil or industrial waste gases while maintaining the same audio and optical quality as conventional vinyl.”

Billie Eilish
Billie EilishRichard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Vinyl is made from plastic, which has a major environmental impact, and often comes packaged inside non-recyclable materials. With the vinyl revival showing no sign of slowing down, the environmental impact has become a source of concern for many, as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), the plastic from which records are made, is environmentally hazardous – as vinyl is difficult to recycle.

BioVinyl helps reduce carbon emissions by 90% compared to standard LPs while retaining the same audio quality.

As for the packaging, the statement explains: “All vinyl packaging is made from FSC® certified recycled paper/boards made 100% from post-consumer waste and recycled pre-consumer fibers. The ink used is raw plant-based and water-based dispersion varnish. In place of shrink-wrap, the sleeves are 100% recycled and re-usable. For shipping, all finished goods are packaged and shipped to depots in up to 93 per cent recycled and 100 per cent recyclable shipping boxes.”

Billie Eilish and her mother Maggie Baird speak onstage during Overheated, a one-off climate activism event presented by Support + Feed and Billie Eilish - August 2023
Billie Eilish and her mother Maggie Baird speak onstage during Overheated, a one-off climate activism event presented by Support + Feed and Billie Eilish - August 2023Dave Benett/Getty Images

Eilish, who is known for her advocacy for environmental causes, said she will "limit" the amount of vinyl record variants she releases for the upcoming album to eight.

The announcement comes after the singer criticised artists who release multiple vinyl formats to boost album sales, calling the practise “really frustrating”.

“We live in this day and age where, for some reason, it’s very important to some artists to make all sorts of different vinyl and packaging,” Eilish said in an interview with Billboard, “which ups the sales and ups the numbers and gets them more money...”

When Eilish’s mother, Maggie Baird, interrupted to point out that multiple vinyl sales "counts toward number one albums", Eilish responded: "I can't even express to you how wasteful it is."

Eilish is not the first to have released a different sort of vinyl.

In 2019, singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey achieved a world first by releasing his single ‘In The Anthropocene’ on "ocean vinyl" - a playable record made entirely from recycled plastic from the ocean.

At the time, Mulvey said that the aim of the project was to get people to think about new ways of doing things.

A vinyl record plays on a turntable
A vinyl record plays on a turntableRobert F. Bukaty/AP

Compared to other industries, music is a relatively minor player in terms of environmental damage. However, there is an ecological impact to vinyl and more groups, labels and artists are starting to take notice.

Companies like Pirates Press, Beggars Group and Ninja Tune have been pushing sustainability issues and using PVC that's produced in the most environmentally-friendly way.

Beggars Group - the record label group that comprises 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, XL Recordings, and Ninja Tune already pledged to become carbon neutral in 2021.

Greenyl, who make vinyls “through an innovative production process, powered by renewable energy, in order to greatly limit gas emissions”, is another company leading the charge in addressing that vinyl manufacturing yields a net negative for the environment.

Then there’s the Green Vinyl Records project, a collaboration between 8 Dutch companies whose goal is to reduce the amount of energy and waste within the vinyl record manufacturing process. They achieve this by developing durable plastics and clean, low-energy injection moulding processes.

Massive Attack
Massive AttackGetty Images

As for artists, bands like Coldplay and Massive Attack have been vocal and transparent in addressing the carbon footprint linked to touring, and have attempted to make it more environmentally friendly.

World tours have always been an environmental nightmare, due to the transportation of crew, and equipment. Studies have shown that the majority of touring emissions – often over 90 per cent – come from the travelling involved, and Coldplay have pledged to minimise air travel and use “sustainable aviation fuel” where flying is unavoidable.

While Coldplay aim for net-zero touring, Massive Attack have been working with climate scientists to explore ways to put on “super low carbon” events by handing over years' worth of touring data to Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to assess how the industry can do better. Also at the heart of Massive Attack’s aims is tackling carbon emissions that come from audience travel – which account for up to 80% of event emissions.

The band will play a homecoming gig in Bristol in August which the band says will have the lowest carbon footprint of any concert of its size.

“In terms of climate action, there are no excuses left,” said Massive Attack in their announcement of an enormous "climate accelerator" gig on the Downs later this year.


 “Live music must drastically reduce all primary emissions and take account of fan travel. Working with pioneering partners on this project means we can seriously move the dial for major live music events and help create precedents,” founding member Robert '3D' Del Naja said.

As for an artist of Billie Eilish’s popularity and clout, she can represent a further step in artists tackling a certain level of accountability and advancement in more environmentally conscious practices in the music industry as a whole.

The singer told Billboard she hoped that other artists would "adopt the same practices, and they will eventually become standard. It really is as simple as that".

Additional sources • Billboard

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