Is Paraffin Wax Biodegradable?

5 non biodegradable paraffin pillar candles with a flame on each.

Is Paraffin Wax Biodegradable?

In an era where environmental concerns are paramount, a pressing question arises: “Is paraffin wax biodegradable?” This query is especially relevant as the global paraffin wax market, valued at over £4 billion in 2021, continues to grow at a rate of around 4% annually. Let’s explore the environmental impact of paraffin wax and its biodegradability.

Understanding Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is a by-product of refining crude oil. It’s composed mainly of hydrocarbons and is used in a variety of applications, from candle making to coating for foods and pharmaceuticals.

The Composition of Paraffin Wax

Comprising primarily hydrocarbons derived from crude oil, paraffin wax is solid, white, and odourless. The refining and purification of these hydrocarbons result in the wax we commonly use in various products.

Is Paraffin Wax Biodegradable?

The Environmental Perspective

Paraffin wax’s environmental impact is significant. As a petroleum product, it’s not renewable, and its production is energy-intensive. In fact, producing paraffin candles consumes about 100 times more energy than producing soy candles.

Biodegradation Process

Paraffin wax is slow to decompose. In landfills, products made from paraffin wax, like candles, contribute to waste, with millions of tons discarded annually in the U.S. alone. Unlike natural waxes, paraffin can take several years to break down, making it less than ideal for the environment.

Alternatives to Paraffin Wax

With growing environmental concerns, many seek eco-friendly alternatives:

  • Soy Wax: A renewable, biodegradable option that burns cleaner and longer than paraffin.
  • Beeswax: Natural and biodegradable, offering a sweet fragrance.
  • Coconut Wax: Sustainable and biodegradable, made from coconut oil.


While paraffin wax is widely used, its non-biodegradable nature raises environmental concerns. Alternatives like soy, beeswax, and coconut wax offer more sustainable choices. As we strive for a greener future, the type of wax we use plays a crucial role in our environmental footprint.

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