Soy is known as the “king of beans.” The soybean industry is quite large due to demand for soybean products around the world.
It is such a necessary crop that the production of it today is 15 times what it was in the 1950s.
The largest producers of soybeans are Argentina, Brazil, and the United States – producing a combined total of 80% of the world’s soybeans.
Soybeans are used for many products including animal feed, soy sauce, tofu, and – beginning in the late 20th century – soy wax.
The use of soy wax for candles has become commonplace.
But is it sustainable?
When compared to synthetic wax like paraffin, soy wax is sustainable. But when compared to other natural waxes, it is not the most sustainable option.
That’s why in this article, we’ll take a closer look at how sustainable soy wax really is.
Is Soy Wax Made Sustainably?
Soy wax comes from the oil of soybeans, and the process of how it is made really isn’t a complicated one. Here’s the basic synopsis:
- Soybeans are harvested from the soy plants.
- After harvesting, the beans are cleaned, cracked, and de-hulled.
- The resulting soybeans are rolled into flakes.
- The soybean flakes undergo a mechanical process that extracts the oil.
- The oil is then hydrogenated, which turns it into a solid wax.
In general, the process for making soy wax is pretty simple and doesn’t rely on heavy chemical use so it is pretty environmentally sustainable.
But the biggest question mark surrounding the sustainability of soy wax production isn’t in how it’s made.
There is a larger concern regarding how the soybeans that are used to make soy wax and various other soy products are grown.
But what isn’t sustainable about it? Well, the increasing demand for soybeans has led to:
- Massive deforestation
- Soil erosion
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Lower water quality
- Negative social impacts
When compared to synthetic waxes such as paraffin, it’s hard to argue that soy wax isn’t more sustainable since it comes from a plant-based, renewable resource.
But when you look at all of the impacts that growing soybeans has on the environment, you can see that the concerns about the true sustainability of soy wax are valid.
Is Soy Wax Eco Friendly?
Sustainability and eco-friendliness go hand-in-hand. If something isn’t sustainable, then it usually isn’t eco-friendly either.
The major issue regarding the eco-friendliness of soy wax lies not in the soy wax itself, but in the soybeans that are the source of the soy wax.
Here are some of the potential issues that are often a result of the way that soybeans are grown.
Deforestation involves the clearing of trees and other vegetation from a piece of land in order to make the land more suitable for growing soybeans.
When this happens, the habitats of many animal and plant species are destroyed.
This is a problem especially in areas of major biodiversity, such as the rainforest areas of South America where a lot of soybeans are grown.
There are a lot of endangered species in the rainforest, and if their habitat is destroyed, then they are one step closer to becoming extinct.
2. Soil Erosion
Cultivation of soybeans year after year can also result in erosion and degradation of soil, especially on land that is already highly erodible.
This can create a loss of fertile land, which can lead to even more deforestation and an increase in flooding, as well as pollution of water sources due to fertilizers and other chemicals in the soil.
3. Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Using machinery and other equipment to clear land and process soybeans for use in various products releases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases are one of the leading contributors to climate change.
Climate change can cause much larger problems for the environment including heat stress, poor air quality, and changing weather patterns.
4. Lower Water Quality
Fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals are all used to help manage the soybean crop, prevent diseases, and increase yield.
But these chemicals can get into water sources through the soil, runoff or other means.
This lowers the quality of the water and can even make it unusable for the people and animals that rely on it.
5. Negative Social Impacts
Increased land use and pollution of natural resources has forced people away from their home, especially smaller farmers and natives to the land.
It also means that more labor and manpower is needed to harvest and process the soybeans, which can lead to poor or unethical treatment of workers in some areas.
What Is Being Done To Prevent These Negative Impacts?
Methods of farming such as conservation tillage can lead to decreased soil erosion and better soil quality as a result.
The elimination of hazardous chemicals in exchange for more organic growing methods can also increase the sustainability of soybean production.
Lastly, regulations regarding land use and increased conservation can lead to less deforestation and greater protection of biodiversity and endangered species.
Changes to the way that soybeans are grown are necessary in order to produce soy wax and other products that are more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Is Soy Wax Sourced Ethically?
If a product is ethically sourced, that means that it was obtained in a way that is both responsible and sustainable.
You just read about all of the potential negative impacts to the environment that growing soybeans can have.
But ethical sourcing doesn’t just involve sustainability. It also involves making sure that the workers who grow the soybeans and produce the soy wax are treated fairly.
Examples of ethical treatment of workers includes no child labor, fair wages, and safe working conditions.
As for now, the best thing that you as a consumer can do to recognize ethically sourced soy wax is to look for specific labels on the product’s packaging.
From a sustainability standpoint, look for labels that certify a soy wax product as being organic.
Organically grown crops tend to be better for the environment because they don’t rely on the heavy use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.
From a social standpoint, labels such as Fair Trade Certified are another indicator of ethical sourcing.
The Fair Trade label applies mostly to agriculture products and designates that the workers who produced the product were treated fairly and safely.
The Certified B-Corporation label means that the product was created in a way that is ethical to both humans and the environment.
There are many soy wax products out there, and not many of them will be sourced ethically.
But for a product to obtain that label it has to meet certain minimum requirements, so you know that those products are legitimate.
Looking for those labels or similar ones on soy wax products is the best way to ensure that you’re getting a product that causes little to no negative environmental or social impacts.
Is Soy Wax A Natural Product?
Since soy wax comes from a plant source, it can be considered a natural product.
But in a sense, everything could be considered to come from a natural product. Even synthetic materials that are petroleum by-products come from a natural source: crude oil.
With that being said, while soy wax is technically a natural product, it may not be 100% natural. It just depends on other ingredients that may be added to the wax.
For example, soy wax candles that have no dye or fragrance added to them could be considered all-natural.
If a soy wax candle does have dyes or fragrances added, but they are plant-based and free of chemicals, then the soy wax can still be considered all-natural.
But if any of the added ingredients are synthetic or have chemicals in them, then the soy wax isn’t 100% natural.
Is Soy Wax A Vegetable Wax?
Yes, soy wax is considered to be a vegetable wax since it is made from the oil of soybeans.
Is Soy Wax Biodegradable?
Yes, since soy wax is a plant-based natural product, it is biodegradable.
However, you should check the ingredients to see if it is made up of any synthetic materials or harmful chemicals, as this can affect the biodegradability of soy wax.
Any synthetic materials or chemicals that are added to the soy wax can cause it to take longer to biodegrade and cause harm to the environment when it does.
Is Soy Wax Compostable?
Soy wax is compostable as long as it is 100% natural – meaning without the addition of any chemicals and synthetic materials.
If you’re unsure about what a soy wax product is made of, then it is best not to compost it because you don’t want to accidentally ruin your compost.
Is Soy Wax Recyclable?
Wax of any kind is not recyclable, including soy wax. This is due to the consistency of it.
Recycling machines aren’t made to process the sticky consistency of wax. It could clog up the machines and cause them to stop working.
It is best to throw away any type of wax, or let it biodegrade or compost it if it is safe to do so.
Is Soy Wax Better Than Beeswax?
It really depends on what you’re looking for in a product. Remember that beeswax is the oldest type of wax used for making candles and wax seals, among other things.
Beeswax products have been around for centuries, which means that it is obviously a pretty sustainable type of wax.
In terms of eco-friendliness and sustainability, beeswax is the better option compared to soy wax.
Beeswax is also more dense than soy wax, so beeswax candles should burn longer than candles made from soy wax.
However, the downside to beeswax is that since it comes from an animal source, it is not vegan in the strictest sense.
However, this question is answered differently even among vegans, since the bees are not harmed in the process and the wax is just a byproduct of their honey production.
Is Soy Wax Better Than Paraffin?
Soy wax may not be the most sustainable type of wax out there, but it is definitely more sustainable than paraffin wax.
Since paraffin wax is a by-product of refining crude oil, it is a non-renewable resource and therefore not sustainable or eco-friendly at all.
Being a plant-based product that is renewable, the sustainability advantage goes to soy wax.
Soy wax also burns a lot slower than paraffin wax, meaning that candles made from soy wax tend to last longer.
Is Soy Wax Toxic?
Despite not being the most sustainable wax, one advantage to soy wax is that it is non-toxic and very clean burning.
Candles made from paraffin wax can release carcinogens into the air, which can cause health problems over time.
Soy wax candles are not known to release anything harmful when they are burned, making them healthier for both humans and the environment.
What Is Soy Wax Used For?
While the primary use for soy wax is in candles, it can also be used in some beauty products.
Soy wax has natural moisturizing properties since it is made from soybean oil. It is a great plant-based product to use in lotions and other skin care products, as well as in some cosmetics like lip balms.
If you enjoy making your own homemade beauty products, then you might want to consider using soy wax as a base ingredient.
2 Sustainable Alternatives To Soy Wax
Soy wax has many advantages due to the properties of it, but it is not necessarily the most sustainable.
Here are two alternative options to soy wax that are more sustainable but have similar properties.
Beeswax is one of the best alternatives to soy wax in terms of sustainability. There’s a reason that its popularity never really ran out.
When used for candle-making, it is clean-burning and long-lasting.
When used for beauty products, it is moisturizing and all-natural. The only downside to beeswax is that vegans may not be comfortable using it.
2. Coconut Wax
Coconut wax is another plant-based wax that comes from…you guessed it – coconuts.
In general, coconuts are more sustainable than soybeans.
They don’t require a lot of pesticides and are mostly grown by smaller farms, meaning that less land is destroyed and there are less negative social impacts.
And like soy wax and beeswax, candles made from coconut wax are very clean-burning and long-lasting. Another advantage is that coconut wax is a vegan product.
It is true that soy wax is more sustainable than synthetic waxes such as paraffin, but soy wax is not the most sustainable type of wax.
However, you can’t necessarily fault the soy wax itself. Rather, it’s the source of the soy wax that raises the most sustainability concerns.
If it wasn’t for all of the potential problems that growing soybeans causes, then soy wax would be a lot more eco-friendly and sustainable.
Fortunately, changes to the way that soybeans are grown as well as new production methods are leading companies to create soy wax products that were both sourced and produced sustainably.
Before purchasing soy wax products, try to do some research on the specific brand and product to make sure that it was made as sustainably as possible.