Devil in the detail. The truth about Soy Wax. Soy wax is never organic

Devil in the detail. The truth about Soy Wax. Soy wax is never organic

Soy wax has become a popular alternative to traditional paraffin wax in recent years and is flayed as made from a renewable resource and considered to be environmentally friendly. The unfortunate truth is very far from this.

How is it made?

Soy oil is extracted from the soybean using a petrochemical called Hexane. The oil is the hydrogenated to alter to chemical compound of the fats and produce a solid product. This is then bleached and chemical additives are applied to achieve the final product. 

Often touted as the “Organic” option by organizations the very nature through which soy wax is produced from soybeans not only precludes it from this status but steers the final product in the direction of synthetic classification. A natural product as the basis for a product does not necessarily classify a product as natural.

Organic Status 
The Australian Certified Organic Standard states that Certified Organic products are grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or GMO’s. So even if you begin with organic soy oil, the nickel-catalyzed hydrogenation reaction that converts the oil into a wax makes the resulting wax non-organic. To understand this further read on.

Contains Petrochemicals
Soy wax is made from soy oil which is extracted from soybeans using hexane. N-
Hexane is a chemical made from crude oil. It is used in laboratories, primarily when it is mixed with similar chemicals to produce solvents. Common names for these solvents are commercial hexane, mixed hexanes, petroleum ether, and petroleum naphtha.

n-Hexane is a colourless, highly volatile liquid that has been shown to have adverse effects on human health. Due to its high volatility, the main route of exposure to n-hexane is inhalation, followed by oral exposure and, to a lesser extent, skin contact. n-Hexane can irritate the nose, throat and lungs. Exposure can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness and passing out. Higher levels can cause coma and death.

Environmental Impact 
On top of this…the environmental impact of soybean production through soybean cultivation can contribute to deforestation and habitat destruction. This is because soybeans are often grown in monoculture, which means that large areas of land are cleared for soybean production. This can lead to the loss of biodiversity and disrupt local ecosystems.

Renewable or Not?
Like paraffin wax that is made from crude oil another non renewable resource, the majority of soy wax is not a renewable resource.  While it is theoretically possible to manufacture soy wax in a renewable fashion; it is not done this way.  Actual commercial production of soy wax involves non-renewable petrochemical resources at all stages of production (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, transportation, oil extraction and hydrogenation). 

Another issue is that the processing of soy wax can be energy-intensive. The soybeans must be harvested, cleaned, and processed into wax, which requires machinery and energy. This can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

Additionally, some soy wax products may contain additives or synthetic fragrances, which can be harmful to the environment and human health.

How does it compare?
So how does soy wax compare to other wax alternatives? Beeswax, for example, is another natural wax alternative that is more environmentally friendly than soy wax. Beeswax is produced by bees and is a byproduct of honey production, so it does not require additional resources to be produce. Additionally, beeswax is biodegradable and non-toxic, which means it won't harm the environment or human health.

What now?
It’s clear that soy wax has a large set of environmental impacts that should be considered when choosing a wax alternative. While there might be claims it is made from a renewable resource and can be produced using sustainable methods, soybean cultivation can contribute to deforestation and habitat destruction, and the processing of soy wax can be energy-intensive. The production process also precludes it from the organic label and can mislead the consumer greenwashing and misinformation.

It's important to choose wax products that are free from harmful additives and are produced using sustainable methods and to consider wax alternatives such as beeswax. By making informed choices, we can reduce our environmental impact and support more sustainable and ethical business practices toward surfing sustainability.


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1 comment

Yes! This needs to be shouted everywhere. The soy industry is one of the worst “greenwashing” industries around.

My company, Cernunnos Farms, is on a mission to make beeswax candles more accessible, as well as much more decorative, so their use is hopefully expanded to many many more households.


with any left over wax from a beeswax candle, you can melt it down, add some of your own non- toxic ingredients and made other things you can use like surfboard wax, lipbalm, or even a natural waterproof sunblock!

Chris Kelly

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