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Behind the scenes at The Recycled Candle Company in Chorley

Making firelighters using dried flowers. PHOTO: Rosie Parsons
Making firelighters using dried flowers. PHOTO: Rosie Parsons

The subtle glow of a candle really adds atmosphere to the home, especially in the winter months when we’re more inclined to spend evenings indoors staying cosy. And your candles could also go a little way towards helping the environment.

Richard Hills-Ingyon and Sargon Latchin are unusual eco-warriors – their mission is to keep used candles from languishing in landfill. Instead, they recycle the wax to make new candles. It’s an undertaking that began over 20 years ago.

Great British Life: Sargon Latchin and Richard Hills-Ingyon. PHOTO: Spencer Cobby Sargon Latchin and Richard Hills-Ingyon. PHOTO: Spencer Cobby

‘My parents ran a country house hotel in Devon and they were always busy. So they tried various ploys to keep us kids occupied, and one of these was a candle-making kit,’ he says. ‘I became hooked straight away, I loved the process of melting, mixing, creating a candle.’

But his future career was almost cut short when he got carried away and accidentally melted the moulds, leaving wax dripping over countertops, cabinets and carpets. ‘My dad was really not happy with me,’ he laughs. But, forgiven, he persevered, progressing from hobbyist to expert chandler.

Along the way, Richard became preoccupied with finding ways to reuse spent candles. ‘Even at an early age I really disliked waste, so I began working out how I could use the wax again. It’s not enough to just melt old wax down, that just leads to murky coloured candles with a dubious smell. So I had to invent the process. It took patience, trial and error.’

Great British Life: Donated wax is sorted into colours before it's reused. PHOTO: Spencer CobbyDonated wax is sorted into colours before it's reused. PHOTO: Spencer Cobby Great British Life: Donated tealights ready for wax extraction. PHOTO: Spencer CobbyDonated tealights ready for wax extraction. PHOTO: Spencer Cobby

There was a short hiatus while Richard studied for a degree in drama, with aspirations to tread the boards professionally. He performed at Edinburgh and with a local repertory company but ultimately, could not resist the call of the candles, choosing the glow of candlelight over the glare of the spotlight.

‘To be honest, being a candle maker seemed a more secure career than acting,’ he adds. It was meeting Sargon Latchin that clinched the deal. An architect and designer by trade, Sargon is half Iraqi, half Scottish, London-born but brought up in Dubai. His international savvy and flair for design was just what the latent candle-making business needed; Sargon tossed out Richard’s obsession with raffia and streamlined the branding. The Recycled Candle Company launched at the Country Living Christmas Fair.

Along the way, they teamed up with a London-based French perfumer who generally works only with high end brands. ‘They loved our ideas and our ethos; we’re one of a very few small businesses they will work with,’ says Sargon, who is the creative force behind the aromas. There are currently five core fragrances, from indulgent Rose & Oud and comforting Winter Spice to the bright, uplifting Ginger & Lime.

Great British Life: The unscented green Christmas tree candle. PHOTO: Spencer CobbyThe unscented green Christmas tree candle. PHOTO: Spencer Cobby

But the popular seasonal sets of Christmas tree candles, available in traditional green and festive red, are not fragranced, to avoid strong scents mixing with the smells of your Christmas feast.

Every candle is made from one hundred percent recycled wax, gathered from a variety of sources. ‘We work with the ‘green teams’ at several big name hotel and hospitality chains, who keep their spent candles for us. And places of worship are really keen to recycle votives and prayer candles,’ Richard says. ‘We’re also incredibly grateful to green-minded individuals – you’d be amazed how many people donate their old candles and tealights. There are increasing numbers of recycling points popping up around the country, such as Reeds Refillery here in Chorley.’

The actual wax recycling process is not mechanised so requires lots of concentration and skill. ‘We can use any type of wax candle – first we separate the colours before dissolving batches in a huge melt,’ Richard says. ‘This liquid wax is then filtered to remove all the impurities such as bits of wick, soot, matchsticks and the metal sustainers from tealights.’

Great British Life: Melting recycled green wax. PHOTO: Spencer CobbyMelting recycled green wax. PHOTO: Spencer Cobby Great British Life: Pouring wax into moulds. PHOTO: Spencer CobbyPouring wax into moulds. PHOTO: Spencer Cobby

When the silt settles, Richard removes the different layers – the best quality is used for clear candle elements, slightly discoloured works for the dyed bases of the candles and the more discoloured wax is used for firelighters. These incorporate natural items like flowers, pine cones and moss, and again much of the material is recycled. Richard’s mum is a florist with a passion for crafts and she saves leftover materials for him.

They’re clearly doing something right, as they’ve picked up plenty of awards along the way, including the Green Apple Award for Sustainable Development, Gift of the Year Award and, most recently, a highly commended placing in the Marie Claire Sustainability Awards.

And they’ve now re-located from the south coast to the North West and a new base in Chorley. ‘We’d gone just about as far as we could on our own and had been contemplating the next step, so when we were approached by the Lancashire-based wax manufacturer, Kerax, it made a lot of sense to work with them,’ Richard says.

‘We’re loving it so far; we’ve had a really warm welcome from local people interested in what we’re doing, and enquiries about how to donate candles. It’s early days but we hope to be opening up the production facility for open days and factory sales, maybe even group workshops. It would just be really great for people to be able to see what we do and learn more about why we’re doing it.

therecycledcandlecompany.co.uk

Great British Life: Winter Spice pillar candles. PHOTO: Spencer CobbyWinter Spice pillar candles. PHOTO: Spencer Cobby Great British Life: Limited edition coloured heart candles. PHOTO: Mike AlresfordLimited edition coloured heart candles. PHOTO: Mike Alresford



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