If we do an internet search for the term ‘upcycled’, we will probably be shown a raft of painted furniture, some craft based ideas and projects that can comfortably fit in the DIY category. There may be some upcycled fashion – items that have been made from other items, but there general category feels rather ‘hand-made’. Of course, this is not incorrect at all, but in circular economy terms, upcycling means creating something from an existing item or material, and increasing it’s value in some way. Instead of recycling / downcycling, which often decreases the value of a material, upcycling makes something more of its ingredients. And the great thing is, if you can find an incredible waste stream, the possibilities are only limited by imagination.
The latest, and newest item on the upcycling block is perfume. Now, on the face of it, this just makes common sense – using fragrant materials that have perhaps already been used for another purpose, such as waste petals or even waste fruits, but up until relatively recently, that was just not common practice. The dots were not connected between the waste stream and those who could make use of it.
Things are starting to change however, with more fragrances embracing the variety of ingredients that can be sourced from elsewhere. Etat Libre d’Orange ‘I Am Trash’ is made using waste apples from the food industry, along with rose petals and sandalwood chips that have already been ‘distilled’ once for other fragrances or oils and Issey Miyake’s ‘A Drop d’Issey’ uses cedar wood oil distilled from waste sawdust created by furniture makers.
But it’s not just about the scents – Coty, who produce fragrances for the likes of Calvin Klein and Gucci have announced that they plan to create base alcohols from industrial wastes. Chemically possible – and another great use of a potentially problematic material.
So will we see more of this type of upcycling heading to our perfume counters? Quite possibly. With resources becoming ever more scarce and climate change increasingly affecting crops world wide, using waste materials could actually lighten the burden on land currently used to grow raw materials for fragrances. How this will affect the current supply chain and farmers does need to be deeply considered however. Creating items from waste is certainly a step in the right direction, but will lifetime growers of crops become redundant? Like everything in a circular economy, there are many facets to consider.