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Plastic Shortages Hurting Audio & CE Industry

The music and CE industry has been hit due to a massive shortage of plastic with some musical artists now struggling to get a record pressed.

Plastic resins — tiny plastic pellets used to make everything from vinyl records to the casing on smartphone covers to network speakers — are undergoing a triple whammy of high demand, tight supply and soaring prices.

The raw ingredient that forms the base of all thing’s plastic is emerging as the tiniest example of how COVID is causing massive supply chain turmoil.

Industry experts say the ongoing shortage of the ubiquitous material is unlikely to be resolved quickly, and that plastic resin price hikes are trickling down to consumer goods and adding to inflation.

This coupled with increased freight costs, component shortages and the rising price of goods is tipped to cause problems in Australia.

Even Foxtel is having problems getting plastic for their iQ boxes with some insiders claiming that there will be “very little if any” new vinyl releases this year due to the shortage which is also affecting the production of covers for network speakers and hundreds of other CE devices that have plastic components.  

Since March 2020, a perfect storm of events has been putting severe strains on supplies of plastic raw materials, base plastics and compounded plastics.

This shortage has hit plastic product manufacturers very hard resulting in audio and consumer electronics manufacturers struggling to finish products.

Plastics supplies were tight even before Winter Storm Uri’s disastrous effects on US production where a lot of plastic resin is manufactured.

The effects of these material shortages are very tight supplies, historically high prices and delivery delays.

The problems extend to components, especially parts made with prime grade and engineering grade plastics.

When COVID first hit the US in March 2020, plastics suppliers reduced stocks based on uncertainties about COVID’s effects on the market.

But changes in the plastics market did not go as expected.

As the social effects of COVID settled in, there was a surge in demand for plastic products.

This surge primarily came from changes in consumer buying behaviour.

In 2020, the worst hurricane season in years negatively affected hydrocarbon extraction and processing in the Gulf of Mexico and the American Gulf Coast. It included two back-to-back hurricanes hitting Louisiana within two weeks.

Back in 2020 Heavy Metal Act Green Lung was about to go on their first American tour then COVID hit.

The band used the blockade to produce their second album, “Black Harvest.”

Recorded by December 2020 it was ready to master and press on 5,000 gold vinyl records.

The first press of records sold out on pre-orders will not be available until October with customers waiting months for their delivery.

The band could have launched on a streaming service like Spotify.

But it wanted to wait and do an LP which would generate much more money in the short term.

The band has become the latest and most unexpected victim of turbulence in the global supply chain of plastic with hundreds of other recording studio’s facing long delays in getting their vinyl records to market.

During COVID lockdowns demand for CD’s and vinyl have surged.

In March, record sales in the UK reached the last highs seen in 1989.

“Every artist in the world has been playing with his thumbs for 18 months to make records,” says Ed Macdonald, 100% Records Manager.

“Vinyl is a very integral part of our sales,” he says. Mainstream artists are increasingly involved.

Taylor Swift’s album “Evermore” was first released digitally in December and set a 30-year record for record sales.

The album will be released shortly by Ed Sheeran, ABBA And Coldplay.

Unfortunately for musicians, it’s becoming nearly impossible to get a record pressed as most vinyl press factories were closed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Due to COVID the largest remaining ones (USA, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland) had to be temporarily closed, causing a backlog.

Currently, the demand from musicians exceeds capacity.

Moreover, PVC, Plastic used for manufacturing LPs surged after hurricane Ida knocked out 60% of US production in August.

 

On the other hand, the demand from companies that use plastic in their consumer electronic products as well as from automotive manufacturers surged.

 

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