Richard Hills-ingyon and his part­ner Sar­gon Latchin res­cue, re­cy­cle and give new life to ta­pers and tealights by hand­craft­ing ecofriendl­y can­dles

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - For more in­for­ma­tion about the Re­cy­cled Can­dle Com­pany, visit there­cy­cled­can­dle­com­pany.co.uk.

An in­spir­ing cou­ple res­cue and re­cy­cle wax from restau­rants and churches to cre­ate lux­ury, sus­tain­able can­dles

As we ap­proach the short­est days of the year and spring sun­shine feels a long way away, there is some­thing primevally com­fort­ing about the flicker of a naked flame on a dark evening. It’s no won­der that, for cen­turies past, can­dles have been syn­ony­mous with Christ­mas and win­ter. They, like the tra­di­tional Yule log, bring warmth, light and com­fort into our homes when the weather can be at its most bit­ter.

This tra­di­tion is beau­ti­fully show­cased at the Sid Val­ley Coun­try House Ho­tel in Devon, where guests are wel­comed by rows of can­dles lin­ing the path­ways lead­ing up to the front door. What makes the scene even more spe­cial is that these are no or­di­nary fes­tive dec­o­ra­tions – the ho­tel is also the head­quar­ters of The Re­cy­cled Can­dle Com­pany and, as the name sug­gests, its prod­ucts are all made from care­fully re­pur­posed wax.

The com­pany, which is the only one of its kind, was founded in 2015 by Richard Hills-ingyon and his part­ner Sar­gon Latchin. There’s some­thing de­light­fully demo­cratic about Richard and Sar­gon’s wares. Wax do­nated by grand ho­tels and churches melts and min­gles with stubs from the lo­cal pub, trans­form­ing into can­dles that prove sus­tain­abil­ity and lux­ury don’t have to be mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. Con­cern for the en­vi­ron­ment lies at the heart of Richard’s busi­ness phi­los­o­phy, but he is also keen to cre­ate prod­ucts that ap­peal over and above their green cre­den­tials. The com­pany’s clients, he says, are “not only peo­ple who feel they can’t jus­tify a lux­ury pur­chase that can’t be re­cy­cled, but also those who just love lux­ury”.

Richard made his first can­dles as a child, us­ing an old craft kit that had be­longed to his mother and never been used. His ear­li­est at­tempt, he cheer­fully ad­mits, was “aw­ful!”, but marked the be­gin­ning of a life-long in­ter­est in can­dle­mak­ing. He started ex­per­i­ment­ing with the an­cient craft, but soon be­gan to run out of raw ma­te­rial: “Wax is quite ex­pen­sive so, in­stead of throw­ing away any can­dles that turned out wonky or where the wicks fell out, I started to remelt them.”

The chal­lenge was to find an ef­fec­tive way to fil­ter and pu­rify it – or, as Richard says, “fig­ure out a way of putting bad wax in and get­ting good wax out”. His early ef­forts in­volved kitchen sieves and tea tow­els (his mother was clearly ex­tremely un­der­stand­ing), but even­tu­ally, he worked out how to trans­form old can­dles into fresh wax. It was this tech­nique, once mas­tered, that in­spired the launch of his busi­ness. Now, to pro­duce his cur­rent el­e­gant range, he uses a clev­erly con­verted in­dus­trial-sized tea urn, af­fec­tion­ately known as Bertha, fit­ted with net fil­ters that strain the molten wax. Bertha has plenty to di­gest: some of Richard’s can­dles are re­cy­cled from restau­rants, and un­wanted for­eign bod­ies in­clude any­thing from cut­lery and soap to chips, as well as the old wicks (Richard and Sar­gon are still hope­fully wait­ing for their first di­a­mond ring or neck­lace to sur­face from Bertha’s depths).

As their com­pany grew, so did the area they col­lected can­dles from. Be­gin­ning with lo­cal restau­rants, they soon be­gan to look fur­ther afield – to churches, cathe­drals and ho­tels – and they now do a monthly col­lec­tion in cen­tral Lon­don, some­times from

ho­tels where “we al­ways feel in­cred­i­bly un­der-dressed”, Sar­gon ex­plains. The Eger­ton House Ho­tel in Knights­bridge, for ex­am­ple, has a strong fo­cus on green ini­tia­tives; the ho­tel not only pro­vides wax for re­cy­cling, but sells Re­cy­cled Can­dle Com­pany prod­ucts as gifts, too. Can­dles are also sent by post from events com­pa­nies and churches from as far away as Ed­in­burgh and Glas­gow. All of these are stored in sacks and crates in the shed where Bertha lives, while they await a new lease of life.

Restau­rants and ho­tels might light fresh can­dles sev­eral times in an evening or for each new guest; once an event is over or a church ser­vice has fin­ished, the can­dles are ex­tin­guished and dis­carded, lead­ing to dozens of half-used can­dles sim­ply be­ing thrown away. Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, wax is not cur­rently classed as re­cy­clable. Even nat­u­ral beeswax can­dles are likely to con­tain ad­di­tives such as fillers, hard­en­ers and fra­grances, while paraf­fin wax is an oil-based prod­uct. No of­fi­cial records are kept of how much used wax ends up in land­fill each year but, given the lack of re­cy­cling op­tions, the an­swer must be size­able.

The Re­cy­cled Can­dle Com­pany thus gives Richard the op­por­tu­nity to com­bine his two pas­sions: can­dle­mak­ing and the en­vi­ron­ment. “When I was a child, I’d al­ways ask for com­post bins and wormeries for birth­days and at Christ­mas,” he re­calls. “I have a huge love for can­dle­mak­ing, and ma­te­rial go­ing into the bin didn’t fit with my per­sonal ethos. The way that the two strands have come to­gether is very or­ganic.”

While Richard de­scribes his can­dles as “home-made and hand­made”, the re­sults are very far from home­spun: you wouldn’t know they were re­cy­cled if it didn’t say so on the la­bel – in suit­ably stylish script, of course. The re­cy­cled can­dle com­pany’s core line of fra­granced can­dles, pre­sented in sleek glass jars with metal lids, can hold its own along­side any of the well-known brands. And it’s not just the can­dles’ ap­pear­ance that is ‘high end’. The warm wax is poured not once but twice to en­sure max­i­mum burn time and ev­ery con­sign­ment is in­di­vid­u­ally tested to make sure it has the right wick. “The can­dle has to burn evenly, with a steady flame, no residue and no soot,” Richard says. “Our glass, wicks and fra­grances are all sourced in the UK,” Sar­gon adds.

Nat­u­rally, the right scent is also cru­cial. “We use re­ally high­qual­ity fra­grances,” Richard says. “As we’re not pay­ing for wax, we can af­ford the best.” The cur­rent range of eight is a so­phis­ti­cated se­lec­tion: Fig & Vanilla; Lily of the Val­ley; Rose & Oud; Win­ter Spice; Bit­ter Orange & Ylang; Gin­ger & Lime; White Jas­mine & Mint; and Laven­der & Rock Salt. Richard’s favourite is Win­ter Spice, while for Sar­gon, Rose & Oud con­jures up mem­o­ries of Dubai, where he grew up. There are some un­ex­pected touches; the Laven­der, for ex­am­ple, is cut with a fresh note of cu­cum­ber, while the White Jas­mine & Mint suc­cess­fully evokes “a florist’s shop early in the morning”. It’s hard to imag­ine any­one buy­ing one of Richard and Sar­gon’s can­dles and not burn­ing it right down to the last bit (per­fectly evenly, of course) – if any can­dles are un­likely to end up be­ing re­cy­cled, it must be these.

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