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New perfume by O Boticário captures the scent of an iconic bay before pollution struck

A year ago, we featured Italian supermarket Italmark's new home fragrance: a reed diffuser with the scent of alpine flowers at risk of going extinct, created to highlight biodiversity loss in northern Italy. Now, Brazilian beauty behemoth O Boticário has launched a similar concept: a perfume called Extinto.

As the brand points out, when a natural environment suffers degradation, its specific fragrance is one of the first things to disappear. The inaugural scent in O Boticário's Extinto line aims to replicate what Brazil's iconic Guanabara Bay smelled like before it was covered in trash and its waters grew murky — 18 thousand liters of raw sewage are discharged into the bay every second. O Boticário describes the perfume as expressing "the freshness of the waters and the lush green of the forests, with a dewy effect."

Unlike Italmark's home fragrance, Extinto isn't available for purchase, although customers can experience the scent at select O Boticário stores. Following Guanabara Bay, Extinto will capture the pre-pollution fragrance of endangered natural areas on other continents: Madagascar, Calabria, New Delhi and Arnhem Land.

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Anyone who visits Guanabara Bay now will struggle to believe it was once a pristine place of natural beauty and home to hundreds of bottlenose dolphins. Recreating the smell of the bay before it became a poisonous dumping ground is a potent way to connect people with what's been lost — more visceral and emotionally resonant than statistics or overly familiar images of garbage drifting across water.

Getting under the skin of consumers could be key to unlocking responsible behavior. While O Boticário operates over 4,000 collection points for empty cosmetics packaging from any brand and also offers refills, recycling and return rates are dismal across industries. Take McDonald's: in Germany, customers pay a EUR 2 deposit for reusable cups, but only 40% are returned to restaurants.

To tackle the problem, O Boticário will be partnering with Grupo Boticário's startup accelerator on innovative solutions to solid waste management while continuing to push consumers towards collective action — "Either we change our habits or the beauty and smell of the most beautiful places on the planet could disappear."