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Austin record maker creates holiday bouquets with scrap plastic

Gold Rush Vinyl reuses plastic and imperfect records to create different DIY projects every few months.

AUSTIN, Texas — Gold Rush Vinyl presses thousands of records every year in nearly every color.

"Ever since the pandemic, our color requests have flip-flopped," owner Caren Kelleher said. "That used to be about 75% of all the records we made were requested to be black vinyl, and now it's colored vinyl. Reflects a lot more of artists wanting to have different variations for their customers."

Before the pandemic, Kelleher could turn an order every six weeks or so. Now, the company is backlogged for months but still services clients faster than most large-scale facilities. With so many orders, each record produces waste as well.

"On a really good run? We're averaging about 3% waste," Kelleher said. "On more complicated colors that require more setup, it can be as high as 20%. Most pressing plants average about 33% waste."

To deal with some of the excess plastic and imperfectly pressed records, Kelleher and her staff found a creative solution.

RELATED: LIST: Where to buy vinyl in Austin

"We'd come up with balls and with clocks and had the idea to make a flower bouquet for Valentine's Day," Kelleher said. "We posted it on Instagram just to say, 'Hey, this is here.' And we were kind of overwhelmed how many people were looking for them."

One of the Gold Rush interns, Lauren Akard, took over the bouquet creation for the company for Father's Day.

"When I saw them, I was like, I want to make something with that," Akard said. "Recently, the intern before me had started making them, and I manipulated different ways to make the flowers because, at first, we were making, like, tulips. I was like, my roommate's name is Rose, so I was like, I have to make some roses."

Making the flowers really depends on the color requests for vinyl record orders. Any waste, called flash, from green records automatically gets saved to use as stems for the flowers. Various colors for the flowers themselves get stashed in boxes too. Akard will either make the flowers by manipulating the plastic right off the press or reheating the flash to mold it as needed.

"If you catch it off the press, it's still more kind of like putty and then you can mold it into [a flower]," Akard said.

Akard then superglues the stems to the inside of the bottom of the flower. She puts either four or five flowers in each bouquet depending on the size of flowers, stems, and vases made out of whole but unsellable records, which may have scratches, improperly placed labels or cracked somehow.

RELATED: Austin opens vinyl record manufacturing plant

According to Kelleher, melting down the flash to make records does not make economical or ecological sense because producers have to find a balance between using approximately 10% of old plastic and 90% of new plastic if they are to reuse any waste at all for records. Striking that balance is a huge challenge and burden for Kelleher and her team and wastes precious time on orders that are already delayed.

For the Father's Day flowers, Akard made approximately 150 flowers for bouquets that would be sold locally to Austinites. As the company gets more orders, Kelleher plans to continue this new tradition of making flowers for holidays out of recycled vinyl.

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