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Digital Music May Have Increased Carbon Footprint Compared To Age Of Vinyl, CDs, And Tape

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The decrease in the use of plastics and the rise of downloading and streaming of music is good for the environment. However, a new study shows otherwise.  ( Pexels )

Digital music has reduced the use of plastic materials, but the amount of carbon footprint generated by digital media is higher than the physical formats, a new study finds.

These findings are based on the research titled "The Cost of Music," a joint study by the University of Glasgow and the University of Oslo. It shows a huge decrease in the use of cassette tapes, vinyl, and compact discs when the downloading and streaming of music took over.

Transmission Of Digital Music Has Higher Carbon Emission

The music industry reduced its use of plastic from 61 million kilograms per year in 2000 down to 8 million kilograms in 2016. The figures may suggest that the decrease in the use of plastics and the rise of downloading and streaming of music is good for the environment.

The new study shows otherwise. According to Dr. Kyle Devine from the University of Oslo, who also led the research, the transmission of digital music has higher carbon emission compared to the overall production of plastic materials in the music industry.

"From a carbon emissions perspective, however, the transition towards streaming recorded music from internet-connected devices has resulted in significantly higher carbon emissions than at any previous point in the history of music," said Dr. Devine.

The study also shows that consumers were willing to spend around 4.83 percent of an average weekly salary in 1977, the year when vinyl was at the peak of production.

Today, consumers can have unlimited access to almost all of the recorded music for just $9.99, or just over 1 percent of the average weekly salary in the United States. This is made possible via digital music platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, Deezer, Pandora, or Amazon.

Point Of The Study

The point of the research, however, is not to discourage consumers to listen to music but for them to gain an appreciation of the changing costs involved in music consumption behavior, according to Dr. Matt Brennan from the University of Glasgow, who also led the research on the changing economic cost of recorded music.

"We hope the findings might encourage change toward more sustainable consumption choices and services that remunerate music creators while mitigating environmental impact," Dr. Brennan explained.

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