Palm oil is one of the most versatile oils in the world. Palm oil used in the cosmetics industry and in most food products. Did you know that, 50% of all supermarket products contain some form of palm oil, but will usually be listed as ‘vegetable oil’.
Palm oil is used in biofuel, as well as a number of uses in the chemical industry. Palm oil is relatively cheap to produce, as the plant is extracted in large quantities from Indonesia, Nigeria and Malaysia.
While Palm oil is extremely useful, versatile and cheap the produce the process for obtaining it is harmful to the environment. The palm oil industry has destroyed large amounts of rainforests and put a number of native species such as the Sumatran Tiger and Sunbear at risk of extinction.
The process for obtaining palm oil begins by clearing a large area of land, so it can become a palm oil plantation. This process can destroy large amounts of rainforest and natural habitats.
The palm oil plant is then planted and grown. When the palm oil fruit is ready to be harvested, it is ready to be made into oil.
Next, the land is burnt which forms hazardous carbon dioxide that contributes damage to the o-zone layer. Peatland is completely unusable for at least 20 years.
The majority of palm oil plantation workers are over-worked and under-paid, resulting into stress and hardship for the employees.
While it is not practical or feasible to stop the production of palm oil, the companies that produce palm oil can look into ways that the palm oil industry can become sustainable. This can be done through a number of ways such as:
- Replanting ten trees for every one tree that is cut down
- Using land that will not damage the environment or destroy an endangered animal’s environment if it is used to grow oil palm.
There have been major steps forward in making the palm oil industry more sustainable such as volunteer organisations including GreenPalm and the round table for sustainable palm oil that offer certificates to palm oil producers for producing ‘green’ palm oil.
While this has been a significant step forward, some palm oil producers still produce palm oil in a way that is harmful to the environment.
It is very important that producers invest in sustainable palm oil as we rely on it every day. It would be nearly impossible now to stop the world’s reliance on it so we need to invest in ways to make the continued production of palm oil sustainable.