Spinning vinyl into art: Recycling records for novelties

NEW YORK (AP) — These vinyl records give "remaster" a new meaning.

An entrepreneur transforms the lacquered discs into jewelry, clocks, wall art and other novelties, with the perk of keeping a little more trash out of the environment along the way.

Patrick Chirico, owner of Wrecords by Monkey in Brooklyn, gets his raw materials from the surplus of used-record stores, which canvas flea markets and estate sales, sell the most popular vinyl, and discard the rest.

Chirico pays about 10 cents a disc, and uses mostly 33-rpm LPs for his projects, separating them into thick and thin vinyl.

"The thick vinyl we use for clocks and wall art and things like that don't need to be manipulated," he says. "And for the thinner vinyl we use for laser cutting and bracelet making."

The polyvinyl chloride used to create records doesn't biodegrade, said Eric Goldstein, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"It can stay in a landfill for hundreds if not a thousand years," Goldstein says.

To reduce his carbon footprint, Chirico says, he uses 90 percent of every record. He makes the album cover into smartphone speaker stands, and the paper sleeve inside is used for shipping and packaging.

He sells in both a store and online. He calls his customers nostalgic for rock and roll or hip-hop and says they range in age from 20 to 70. Bracelets range from $10-$25, clocks $39-$100 and wall art $19-$100; iPhone amplifiers are $5.

As for choosing which records Chirico transforms, he says, it's more about the recording label than the artist.

If he comes across Michael Jackson's "Thriller" or Frank Sinatra, he'll grab those, he says, but it's the record labels from the '70s and '80s that really appeal to the nostalgic customer.

"We try to use Columbia, Atlantic, Warner Brothers," he says.

Still, not all records are created equal.

"If I get a Beatles album, that's going home to my wife," Chirico says, "unless it's really bad and kids scratched it out."

He's not the only one recycling vinyl. Brooklynphono, which opened in 2003, recycles, or "regrinds," discarded vinyl to create new albums in addition to using new vinyl. It put out about 440,000 LPs last year.

Owner Thomas Bernich says he and his wife started out with two old machines to press vinyl and now have five.

The decline of vinyl records began in the '80s as retailers gradually replaced them on their shelves with CDs. Today, MP3s and digital downloads are to blame. But that hasn't stopped the presses.

Rainbo Records, a family business based in California, has been around for over 75 years and is one of only 14 or 15 companies left in the U.S. still pressing vinyl.

General manager Steve Sheldon says Rainbo turned out about 7 million records last year and expects to exceed that in 2015.

His biggest year for vinyl, he says, was 1977, the year Elvis Presley died. That year, Rainbo pressed 11 million records.