The beauty industry opts for upcycling

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The Future. Upcycling — the term for recycling something to create a new, more valuable product — is all the rage in the beauty industry. Brands are reusing agricultural byproducts to make perfumes and lotions and to sell the idea that their products are virtuous. If consumers buy that idea, the beauty industry may be able to make a lot of money from nothing.

Trash = treasure
Beauty brands are churning out products based on every part of agricultural waste.

  • Citrus peels are especially popular, with grapefruit peels, juiced oranges, and entire lemons repurposed for soaps and perfumes.
  • Cedarwood is also in high demand, with some vendors using cedar branches, twigs, and leaves to make conditioners and soaps, while other sellers make perfumes from cedar shavings.
  • Less popular ingredients are being snapped up, too. Plum kernels, jackfruit extract, orange blossoms, and more are getting diverted from landfills to create candles, soaps, scented oils, and flavored water.

Playing dirty
Making use of agricultural waste products is commendable. But “upcycling” is also a buzzword, carrying associations with greenwashing.

As sustainability becomes more of a consumer priority, beauty brands will have to convince people that upcycling’s impact is real — and if they manage that, they can sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Luke Perrotta


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