Upcycling of food waste into beauty products: Case study of Macaland
The globe is grappling with a serious problem: food waste. Due to expiration dates, leftovers, overcooking, and other factors, around 2.5 billion tons of food are thrown away every year even if they can still be eaten. One-third of the food produced globally is included in this. This wasteful practice not only produces carbon dioxide (CO2) during the burning and disposal of the food waste, but it also harms the environment when the ashes are dumped. To address these issues with food waste, beauty cosmetics have been developed from recycled food waste. “Upcycled cosmetics,” which are new products made from food waste, are an illustration of a revolutionary idea to the point where they can be viewed as the next SDGs pillar of the cosmetics sector (Ledesma, 2023).
History of upcycle cosmetics
Upcycling of food waste into beauty products is the practice of giving food waste that was previously discarded a new value and transforming it into a different product (Wanninger, Deckenhoff, Goj, Jackszis, Pastewski, Rajabi & Rubbert, 2022). Companies that make natural and organic cosmetics have long helped to increase the market’s naturalness and sustainability by using natural and organic extracts from plants, flowers, and seeds. The regenerative properties of natural raw materials and the rising customer demand for more environmentally friendly products are the ideal combination to add even more circular beauty to our shelves. Coffee grounds, olive oil waste, or fruit peels are ideal ingredients for upcycled natural scrubs, soaps, and lip balms, and many cosmetic companies have just begun to investigate upcycling these abandoned raw materials (Obruca, Petrik, Benesova, Svoboda, Eremka, & Marova, 2014). Cosmetic firms may lessen our impact on the environment by encouraging a more circular beauty that is beneficial for both our skin and the ecosystem by reusing as much of the valuable natural materials from our soils as feasible (Kishikawa, Ashour, Zhu, Yasuda, Ishikawa, & Shimizu, 2015). Environmentally friendly cosmetics with no additives and packaging with minimal impact on the environment have been available in the past.
In some countries, recycled cosmetics are popular as eco-friendly beauty products. From primary food production all the way through food preparation and consumption, the United Nations estimates that about a third of all food intended for human consumption is lost or wasted. In addition to wasting valuable resources like water, land, and energy, this wasteful conduct also unnecessarily emits greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. It has served as a wake-up call for the cosmetics sector to invest in and manufacture products using materials derived from food waste. Superfoods in particular have long been utilized as food ingredients in skincare and haircare formulas, but using food from trash is a far more recent and environmentally friendly trend (Barbulova, Colucci, & Apone, 2015). Food waste is no longer a fringe concept in the industry; rather, it represents a significant step toward a more sustainable future for beauty brands. This includes projects launched by academic institutions as well as smaller companies that produce beauty products. Another reason for food waste is the 20% or more of product that is wasted because of its appearance. However, numerous studies show that foods with flaws are still incredibly nutrient- and skin-healthy. By purchasing the wonky carrots and bananas that merchants won’t sell for its Carrot facial treatment and Wonderfully Wonky Banana collection, The Body Shop is capitalizing on the trend.
Solutions of Macaland
The story of Macaland began when our Founder – Mr. Trần Lâm had the chance to talk directly with farmers in a remote area of Lam Dong and Dak Nong Province. He then realized an extremely important problem regarding agricultural waste. Farmers always spend a lot of effort on cultivation, however, after harvesting, although these fruits and nuts are nutritious and delicious to eat, if seeds do not meet the standards of appearance, they are still wasted, especially when they are easy to oxidize. Unfortunately, the amount of ugly seeds is relatively large, a 12 hectare field can generate about 500 kg of seeds that are small and look not good, which negatively affects the income of farmers.
This is not only a problem in such specific areas but actually a national and even global problem. According to CEL Consulting, Vietnam currently ranks second in Asia-Pacific in terms of food waste, with 8,8 millions tons of food wasted every year, accounting for nearly 12% of Vietnam Agriculture GDP (Phu, 2022). On a global scale, 1,3 billion tons of food are thrown away annually, making up one-third of the world food production. 20%-40% of total food waste is thrown out because of cosmetic standards.
Another crucial problem Mr Lâm figured out is soil pollution. Farmers regularly come in contact with pesticides and chemical fertilizers around their homes and gardens, which pose health hazards and adversely affect quality of life. This encourages them to implement organic farming, however, this in turn leads to higher variances in seeds and fruit sizes, the number of poor appearance products tends to increase, which partly explains why organic agricultural products are often very expensive. Therefore, the problem of agricultural waste not only causes wastefulness, environmental burden when disposing but also hinder the transformation to more green agriculture.
When reflecting the potential causes of this social issue, the fact is that consumers prefer products with standardized appearance and small seeds are somehow can affect the favor of that seeds, for example with coffee beans, therefore the traders choose not to buy them, or force the farmers to sell them at a very cheap price compared to their efforts, especially when supply is higher than demand. Besides, farmers do not know how to deal with this source of agricultural products, so they can only throw them away or use them as fertilizer. Moreover, traders do not buy ugly fruits or nuts despite their qualified nutritions is because they do not recognize the financial value of them. This leads to the traders and farmers only perceiving the products as its main source of food without looking at its implement value from its inside nutritions for cosmetics or other benefits. It is understandable when in Viet Nam, the problem is not raised popularly and effective solutions are not found. Looking at the new direction requires us to have new technology, new distribution channels, new suppliers and consumers.
Understanding these causes of agricultural waste, some organizations in Viet Nam have come up with solutions to reduce its negative impact. For example, while Food Bank Vietnam had the vision to collect unwanted food and distribute it to those in need, as well as engage restaurants, food procedures and supermarkets to save food Eco Vietnam made efforts to take advantage of technology to recycle food waste to fertilizer. In the cosmetics industry, Pam’s uses foods that are not in good shape to extract essential oils and produce soaps, lipsticks.
The sustainability rationale makes the idea of food waste attractive, but the business needs to deal with unfavorable customer impressions of it. People struggled with impressions of recycled personal care products’ quality and functionality because they believed they were inferior than goods manufactured with “virgin” materials. Even the most ecologically conscious clients won’t be won over by upcycling alone. To convey the quality of the ingredients they are employing and to include this into their storytelling in a way that positively communicates the difference, brands will need to exercise caution when using the appropriate terminology (Matthews, 2020).
Macaland – Vietnamese cosmetic brand with the slogan “From agricultural waste to organic upcycled cosmetics” wants to become the world’s leading natural cosmetic brand for the application of Vietnamese organic agricultural products. To achieve this, Macaland has the mission to reduce agricultural waste caused by lacking appearance standards despite nutritional value, and improves farmers’ income by making perceived low-financial-value agricultural products to high-value natural cosmetics, facilitating the organic transformation. Therefore, Macaland’ solutions are unique and can fill the current gap of the landscape to generate effective solutions. Its mechanism is not charity or non-profit, but through running business to create social impact. It not only aims for profit, but also tries to create social impact throughout our production process. When successfully generating revenue from our quality products, Macaland will have more resources to create even more social impact, it’s like a supportive circle.
Take Macadamia as an example, they will buy cold-pressed oil from macadamia nuts that lack appearance but have ensured nutritional value from farmers’ factories as an input for our cosmetics. This can be considered as technology transfer to help the farmers solve not only immediate waste but also future waste, and create additional jobs for them because we do not just buy the raw nuts.
Moreover, they have the strategy to use fully organic agricultural products in our cosmetics, which acts as a guarantee for farmers wanting to transfer to organic farming. Therefore, their solutions can facilitate the green transformation. We also believe that protecting the soil environment is a good foundation for protecting water and related biological systems.
Regarding the impact, our solutions have explored 12 hectares for organic coffee and 5 hectares for macadamia with the buying price at 170,000 VND/kg organic coffee and 300,000VND/kg macadamia with abnormal appearance, greatly increasing the income of farmers.
Besides materials, their social impact is also demonstrated in the production process. Macaland always tries to use natural ingredients to replace chemicals in production. These substances cost a lot of money as well as resources, especially water.
For example, Macaland has applied organic coffee beans to replace microplastics in exfoliate products, locust replaces sulfate in shampoos. Macaland also adds value to these ingredients by actively applying advanced technologies such as Nano-chemical macadamia, enhancing their capabilities. For packaging, we also try to use HDPE plastic or kraft paper, and implement 3R campaigns.
Before production, in R&D process, Macaland prioritizes natural ingredients and consults many scientific studies around the world to understand the potential benefits of these ingredients. The samples are directly tested and measured to ensure real benefits for consumers. These are some of the achievements they have obtained, showing the trust of consumers and revenue we can give back for social impact.
Macaland considers their solutions as sustainable thanks to two factors. First is their internal R&D abilities, their team has experts with in-depth knowledge and years of experience, and production processes and facilities meet the CGMP standard.
Besides, they are actively cooperating with parties to apply advanced technology and new trending ingredients. Currently, Macaland has cooperated with HCM City University of Technology to apply Nano.
Second factor is the relationship and network they have with suppliers – farmers and cooperatives. Macaland not only helps to increase their short-term incomes through wasted products, but also helps to transfer technology and knowledge about building brands, as well as distribution channels in E-commerce, which relates to their own business developments. This win-win relationship jointly facilitates green transformation and gives us the benefits of exclusive rights to have raw materials supply, especially when there are only a limited number of organic products that can be granted the certificates.
However, the number of these organizations in Vietnam are still limited. Especially in the cosmetics industry, although there are many popular green and natural brand like Cocoon, Cỏ Mềm, Nâu Nâu, they do not highlight this social issue; and brand like Pam’s are still limited in production scale and distribution channels.
Laha Coffee is one of Macaland’s partners supplying contracts. They have a large partnership network with not only E-commerce platforms like Lazada or Shopee, TikTokShop but also outlets such as Medicare, Bach Hoa Xanh, Guardian. Relating to media and social support, recently, Macaland reached the Top 40 of competition created by Tuoi Tre News about start-up.
The fact that food waste may be utilized to make cosmetics may surprise a lot of people. This could be a chance for each of us to learn that the things we have been carelessly discarding up until now can actually be vital ingredients in our upcycled cosmetics. Food waste has been given new life as cosmetics (Glynn, 2022). Additionally, a lot of manufacturers are dedicated to protecting the environment and refrain from utilizing chemicals or performing animal tests. These goods would probably start to show up on the shelves of Vietnamese markets as time goes on. Macaland will be one of the brands developing value upcycle for wasted agricultural products to bring values to sustainable society.
Barbulova, A., Colucci, G., & Apone, F. (2015). New trends in cosmetics: By-products of plant origin and their potential use as cosmetic active ingredients. Cosmetics, 2(2), 82-92.
Glynn, T. (2022, March 30). It’s time to normalize using food waste to make beauty products. Retrieved April 27, 2023, from https://www.allure.com/story/food-waste-beauty-products-upcycling
Ledesma, A. (2023, February 17). Circular beauty: Upcycled ingredients in cosmetic products. Retrieved April 27, 2023, from https://natrue.org/circular-beauty-upcycled-ingredients-in-cosmetic-products
Matthews, I. (2020, February 03). Turning food waste into beauty products. Retrieved April 28, 2023, from https://www.cossma.com/marketing/article/turning-food-waste-into-beauty-products-36033.html
Obruca, S., Petrik, S., Benesova, P., Svoboda, Z., Eremka, L., & Marova, I. (2014). Utilization of oil extracted from spent coffee grounds for sustainable production of polyhydroxyalkanoates. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 98, 5883-5890.
Phu, N. (2022) Food Waste Hinders Sustainable Development, The Saigon Times. Available at: https://english.thesaigontimes.vn/food-waste-hinders-sustainable-development/ (Accessed: April 29, 2023).
Wanninger, A., Deckenhoff, V., Goj, C., Jackszis, L., Pastewski, J., Rajabi, S., & Rubbert, L. V. (2022). Upcycling of plant residuals to cosmetic ingredients. Int. J. Agric. Eng. Technol. Soc. Sci, 1(1).