We use rapeseed wax for all our candles. But surely wax is just wax right?
Well, no. You see, generally candles have been made using paraffin wax which is a product of the petrochemical industry, you know, that’s the one that’s rapidly running out of raw material (oil) and has to resort to even more invasive methods in more unspoilt areas to get it. Burning the wax produces pollutants in much the same way as burning petrol or oil does; you get soot, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, naphthalene, benzene, styrene, toluene, acetone and parabens amongst them. Adding to this is the net release of carbon into the atmosphere, carbon which has been locked away underground for aeons and is now being released in the form of CO2 and various organic compounds which are adding to the greenhouse effect. Paraffin wax is easy to work with; it’s predictable, melts evenly, colours and holds scent well but you’ll never get a pure paraffin wax, it usually has to be mixed with any number of other additives to get it to work that way. Things like stearin (processed from palm oil), vybar, microcrystalline and a whole host of other petrochemically sourced ingredients. All in all, not so cool.
But there are alternatives yes? Well in recent years there has been a shift toward the use of natural waxes. These are waxes that have been processed from the oils produced by plants cultivated commercially. Soya wax is the prime example of this and has become a much more popular substitute for the now frowned upon paraffin wax but it does come with a different set of problems. While soy is a natural, renewable resource its cultivation has generated a whole new set of problems. The growth in production of soya over the last decade has been great. The areas where it has been traditionally grown (Asia, Indonesia and South America) have seen more and more land turned over to its cultivation which unfortunately led to vast areas of pristine land (forest, rainforest, woodland and savannah) being cleared to make way for it. This has destroyed critical habitats for many animals, led to deforestation and soil erosion; it’s destroying carefully balanced ecosystems. While in recent years there has been a push to legislate for more controlled ethically grown soya many of these rules are bypassed and it continues to be a real problem. The WWF have written a particularly good report on it here:
Another problem with soya is that an estimated 90% of all plants grown come from genetically modified stock (GMO’s). Whilst soy wax producers will be quick to tell you that the end result (the oil) contains no genetically modified materials (GMM’s) it doesn’t change where it came from. There’s much debating at the moment about the subject of genetic modification. The fact that cross pollination passes on unwanted, man made traits to natural plants, replacement of natural varieties as well as the moral issues around messing with the genetic code of living organisms.
Finally, although there is now soya grown in Europe and wax processed over here much still comes from the far corners of the globe where the plant is traditionally grown and many of the wax manufacturers are based. It gives the product a pretty big carbon footprint, why ship an apple from New Zealand when there’s an orchard down the road?
This is where rapeseed (canola) comes on.
Over the past few years we here at Corpo Sancto have been experimenting with rapeseed wax (that’s wax that’s been processed from the oil pressed from the rapeseed plant) to replace all other waxes that we’ve used before in our candles. So why rapeseed?
To start with rapeseed is widely and sustainably grown in Europe, no rainforests or pristine natural environments will have to be ruined to get the wax and no local farmers or residents will have to be displaced. Its also fully renewable, we’re not plundering a limited amount. Oil is pressed from the rapeseed and can be used for human consumption as well as biodiesel; what’s left over is used for animal feed or can be ploughed back into the ground as an excellent fertilizer; there’s very little waste.
Our wax is sourced from the UK and Europe which means it hasn’t been shipped halfway round the world to get to us so has less environmental impact.
Like soya wax, rapeseed wax is all-natural. It’s biodegradable and spills can be cleaned up with hot soapy water. As it’s from a renewable source when it’s burned it has no net release of carbon, its effectively carbon neutral.
The wax itself is pretty tricky to work with and can be unforgiving if you don’t treat it right but when you do get things right it gives you a beautiful, smooth, creamy ivory white candle that burns with a golden flame.
We like the results so much and are so happy with its positive eco-credentials that we have decided to use nothing else for all Corpo Sancto branded candles.
We’ve seen the light! Literally and figuratively. We hope you like the results too…