Several years ago, amidst all the rage about soy wax, we were on the brink of changing our candle production over to soy. I had a biochemist, nutritionist and a few environmentalists help me sort out all the information I was getting through my research. After a two-month study of the impact of paraffin vs. soy, we made our decision to stay with paraffin because, we felt, there was less of an impact on the environment. We are really aware that our view is not the popular one, but it is based on our own research and not the industry "studies" that will always skew the results into their favor.
Here is a quick list of our deciding factors:
- All reports referenced in the media tracked back to the study that was financed by the soy wax industry. I was only able to find two independent reports on the toxins released from soy and paraffin candles. The independent reports showed less than one part per million difference in the toxins released from the different waxes. They used unscented wax with the same cotton wick.
- Soy wax is soft and requires a container to be a candle. All soy wax pillars are a combination of soy and paraffin. The companies that are claiming a soy wax pillar are not telling you that they combine paraffin with it to make it hard. When I interviewed soy wax suppliers around the country to find a soy pillar wax with <em>no </em>paraffin they all concurred: the product does not exist.
- Glass: Here is another major environmental impact. The glass generally weighs the same or more than the soy wax, making this a heavier product to ship. The heavier the product is to ship, the more fossil fuels are used in the transport of it. When I tracked the life cycle of a glass container, I found that it could be shipped five times before the customer ever bought it.
- Glass: Is it recycled? Only 30% of all glass used by consumers is recycled through a recycling plant or home use. The rest goes into landfills.
- Glass: The environmental cost of making it. There are enormous amounts of fossil fuels used in the creation of glass; more fossil fuels are used in making and shipping a glass jar than are released in a paraffin candle. There are some fringe reports I have gotten on the devastation of beaches for the mining of sand for making glass. I have not substantiated that report, but I thought I would mention it.
- Fragrance: More toxins are released in a poor-quality fragrance than are ever released from paraffin. At Coventry, we work closely with our perfumer to make fragrance blends that are not toxic to the environment. There are even essential oils that, used in quantity, release toxins into the air. Knowing that this is a bigger health impact than the type of wax we use, we keep our percentage of fragrance to wax at a level that smells great, but will not induce an immediate allergic reaction.
- Smoke: The amount of smoke that comes from a candle is determined by the amount of fragrance and the size of the wick. Large candles, even when they have a properly balanced wick-to-candle diameter, will smoke. Soy wax does smoke, and although the industry says that the smoke is white, I have personally experienced it as black.
- Paraffin: This is a natural by-product of the oil industry. As long as there is oil, there is paraffin. Before the candle industry took off, paraffin was dumped or warehoused by the oil companies. The increase of the candle industry has turned the sale of paraffin into a money-making venture for the oil companies, so they are no longer dumping it. Crude oil is never pumped for paraffin; paraffin is created to keep the oil pure. They extract 99.96% of all crude out of wax and, if they could get that last 0.04%, they would.
- Soy: Soy and corn are the most over-farmed crops in the world. Soy wax comes from industrial farming (Monsanto GMO crops) and not from the independent farmers. Actually, some soy used in wax comes from countries where they do not have the same restrictions on pesticides and GMO crops as they do in the USA and Canada. I have personally talked to farmers who have been put out of business by large, corporate farms whose (among others) major crop is soy. When soy wax is made, there is a high percentage of soy solids that don’t go into the wax. This by-product is fed to cattle as an abundant and cheap feed. There are studies being done on the impact of overfeeding soy to cattle, and the ramifications of genetic manipulation carried out on cows to enable them to handle that much soy in their diets.
- The cost of making soy wax: Just like making ethanol, there is a cost to making soy wax and the energy required to grow and process the wax does not compare to the potential fossil fuel savings of using a soy candle. Keeping things in perspective, starting your car one time puts more fossil fuels into the environment than burning a candle every day for a year.
- Cost: Soy costs two-to-three times more than paraffin and requires special handling. Soy wax cannot be reused and recycled in production as paraffin can, causing much more waste and using more electricity to pour the candles properly.
This information only scratched the surface of what I uncovered and, shockingly enough, the effects of soy on the human body are even worse. Coventry is not anti-soy; we have done our homework and have made sure we know the pros and cons of the materials we use.