Oil palm plantations currently cover more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface. In layman’s terms, that’s around 13.5 million football pitches.
The world consumes palm oil at an incredible rate, because it’s in almost everything. From car fuel, to lipstick, to peanut butter and dog food – even in your laundry detergent. As an ingredient itself, it’s got a few benefits, but do these outweigh the risks and harm it does to our environment?
The good bits
It’s a very efficient crop to grow. It produces far more oil per area of land than other crops that produce alternative oils, such as coconut oil and soybean oil. They also do not require as many fertilisers and pesticides as other crops would. There is also the argument that the industry provides millions of jobs for farmers in developing countries.
It is also the oil of choice nowadays as it is a much healthier fat to have in food compared with others, and it is much less expensive than oils used in home and personal care products.
It’s incredibly versatile; it functions as a natural preservative in processed foods, or as an adhesive in fibreboard production. It is a cheap, raw material to use in biofuels here in the EU, its in our cosmetics because of its price and ease of application, it helps ice cream have a higher melting point and is the foaming agent in almost every liquid soap, detergent or shampoo. The list is endless.
The bad bits
Because it is such a versatile oil, there is an incredibly high demand for it. Annual production of palm oil quadrupled between 1995 and 2015, with the expectation that it will quadruple again by 2050, reaching 240m tonnes per year.
Worldwide, 85% of palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. Entire rainforests are burned down and wiped out to make way for more and more acres of oil palm trees to be farmed. There is immense carbon emissions as well – the fires set to burn land ready for oil palm farming is the top source of greenhouse gases in Indonesia.
These fires release 100 times the greenhouse gas of conventional forest fires.
This destroys the habitats of thousands of creatures, killing hundreds of orangutans, and putting many more animals like elephants, rhinos and tigers at risk of extinction. And it’s not just the environmental cost. Whilst it has created jobs for millions, especially in rural areas, there is often widespread labour and human rights abuses.
What about sustainably sourced palm oil?
Environmental groups have long since lobbied organisations to make their production of palm oil more sustainable, as well as companies that use palm oil in their products.
A global standard called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2004 to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil across the world. Palm oil producers can become members and be independently audited and certified against this standard to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.
The problem is less than half of the worlds palm oil producers are members of the RSPO, so the industry still has a long way to go.
Choosing palm oil free products
Many argue that going completely palm oil free is not the right solution – as the industry has the potential to become a more sustainable one, that doesn’t come with all the same risks and human rights horrors.
Also, if alternatives like coconut oil and soybean oil were used as widely as palm oil, there would be an even bigger environmental impact. Instead, consumers could simply reduce the amount of products they use that have palm oil in their ingredients list.
With more and more high-quality eco-friendly options available, consumers can now make even more sustainable choices – and that’s not just to reduce single-use plastic.
Switching from liquid detergent and fabric conditioner that contain palm oil to an ecoegg Laundry Egg means you can avoid throwing away up to 40 bottles of plastic each year AND reduce palm oil products in your home.
The Laundry Egg works to naturally clean your garments, without any harsh chemicals, parabens, enzymes, phosphates, microplastics – and no palm oil either. That, on top of providing fantastic waste reduction and saving you money makes ecoegg a fantastic choice for everyone wanting to be more sustainable.
Buy your ecoegg Laundry Egg today
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