08.12.2021

These brands are creating great-smelling beauty products out of rubbish

The best bit is, you wouldn’t even know that the products you’re buying have fragrances created from sustainable, upcycled sources. Yes, they smell that good. So what’s the deal with upcycled fragrance and why should anyone be interested? Here’s what you need to know…

We get it, upcycling isn’t a new, breakthrough idea. But when it comes to finding ways to be more sustainable, it comes out on top. For years now, people have been upcycling clothes and furniture to give old items (that were fit for the bin) a new lease of life. But the truth is, when it comes to beauty, the concept of upcycling as a means to make more sustainable choices hasn’t taken off in quite the same way.

Now, however, some brands are making steps in the right direction, and the process might surprise you. While some niche brands, such a UpCircle, have been using by-products such as coffee grains and fruit seeds to make skincare products, more recently, brands have recently been looking at ways of upcycling waste to produce fragrances.

Yes, you read that right. It turns out, disposed fruit skins, pulp and even sawdust can be repurposed to create seriously nose-pleasing scents. In fact, the process is so efficient and effective that some of the biggest perfume houses in the game could be looking to rethink their methods in a bid to make their processes more sustainable and planet-friendly.

Why are upcycled fragrances more sustainable?

Traditionally, creating fragrances requires a lot of resources. Without even taking the manufacturing into account, on a very basic level, you need a huge amount of raw materials in order to extract the natural essences. And even then, you can typically only use a certain part of the thing (for instance, petals of a flower or resin from wood), which in itself creates waste.

In a bid to make the process of creating fragrances more sustainable, brands are beginning to upcycle waste from other industries. For example, the citrus industry generates more than 40million tons of waste worldwide every year, with citrus peel waste accounting for almost 50% of wet fruit mass.

Waste, such as this, needs to be shipped, stored and processed, resulting in a whole load of carbon emissions. By creating scents out of waste from other industries, brands are able to streamline this process and cut back on the amount of emissions produced – genius!

What kind of waste is being upcycled for fragrance?

Well, citrus is a big one. Fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes all have a big role to play in fragrance. Utilising leftover peels and pulp from other industries, such food and drink, can create delicious citrus scents.

Some brands are also turning to upcycled wood chips and sawdust to create woody notes. Harvesting trees produces an immense amount of heat and biogases, as well as a significant amount of waste in the form of chips and sawdust. Instead of beauty brands harvesting trees for the soul purpose of creating fragrances, the excess chips and sawdust can used to distill scented oils. And we’re sure there will be more sustainable perfume innovations to come…

So which brands are already doing this?

Flower harvesting in itself creates tons of by-product. Luxury fragrance brand Sana Jardin has been switched onto the idea of upcycling for a while. Setting its sights on a rural flower-growing region in Morocco, the brand realised that female harvesters were only able to work a few times a year during the harvest. In addition, 900 tonnes of orange blossom waste by-product was being created from the region. The brand’s scents are created using the essential oils from flower distillation, but they also work with the female harvesters to run a cooperative. Through training the women in upcycling the flower waste, they were able to create products they could sell themselves, such as flower water and candles. Sana Jardin Berber Blonde Eau de Parfum, £180, contains a beautifully uplifting blend of orange flower water, neroli and musk.

And it’s not just independent brands that are making waves. In fact, global perfumer Givaudan is keen to make upcycling the norm within fragrance creation. Working with wellness brand, The Nue Co., Givaudan perfumer, Guillaume Falvigny helped create the anti-stress fragrance, Forest Lungs, £80, using cedarwood extract made from sawdust waste from the furniture industry. “I’m seeing more-and-more natural fragrances that are respectful of our environment with products coming from sustainable development and ethical sourcing. It’s something that’s important for me personally, that we continue to respect nature and don’t destroy to create,” says Falvigny.

Also keen to utilise the power of by-products from wood harvesting, Issey Miyake’s latest perfume, A Drop d’Issey Eau de Parfum, £56 for 50ml, has been blended with cedarwood extracted from wood pulp in North America, and is part of the most sustainable supply chains for aromatic wood.

And while we’re talking about fragrance, it’s worth noting this doesn’t just impact perfumes. In fact, upcycling could be utilised in fragrances across a whole bunch of our beauty products. Enviably sustainable hand wash brand, FORGO Hand Wash Starter Kit, £45, (which champions just-add-water refill products) also uses citrus scents from leftover peels and pulps to create its zingy citrus scent and distilled wood scraps to create bright notes of white woods and cedar in its wood aroma. Now it’s time for more brands in the beautysphere to catch on…

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