SOCIAL MEDIA

Understanding Why Palm Oil Is Bad For The Planet *

Friday, 26 April 2019

-*This post is in Collaboration with Compost Direct-

Did you know that over 50% of your shopping list could contain Palm Oil?

Palm oil has been talked about and has basically been slated for a number of years now. One of the problems whilst facing the worldwide battle against climate change and pollution is that we only seem to look at one problem at a time and this is down to "what's trending" in the world. One minute we are looking at the evils of car fumes and how we should reduce our car usage and change to petrol cars or even better, electric cars and the next minute we are looking at how orangutans are losing their habitat due to deforestation and then the following week we're talking about single use plastic and how we need to save the ocean and then we're all about adapting to a vegan lifestyle to avoid water and consumption levels needed for farming livestock and so on.
Trends have obviously been great for raising awareness of environmental issues and getting people to understand and change their ways. But sometimes, ‘past’ concerns fall behind and people become more bothered about what's trending this week and how we can save the world this week by changing out ways for a whole 5 minutes. While it’s important to learn about a new issue, it’s equally important to maintain an interest in previously raised issues. This is particularly necessary with the ongoing issue of palm oil. Garden mulches supplier, Compost Direct, investigated palm oil and why it's bad.

So what exactly is palm oil?

Palm oil is a form of vegetable oil that comes from palm oil trees. The oil these trees produces is a fantastic product: it’s a healthier alternative to many other oils, aids with lathering in soaps, and holds colours in cosmetic items well while helping with a smooth application. It can enhance the texture of doughs, conditions hair, is free from trans fats, makes chocolate look shiny, gives baked goods a creamy taste, removes dirt and oil, and relatively inexpensive. So obviously brands and companies use it for all of the above reasons.
It’s easy to see why we use it so much, despite it being a high source of saturated fats. Sadly, as with most things, human demand is so much higher than the planet can naturally produce and replenish.

So why does it have such a bad reputation?

The issue isn’t with the palm oil itself. The problem is mainly with the method of how it's obtained, which can be highly destructive.
In order to harvest palm oil, the fruits are collected from the tree. These trees live for around 30 years, but they grow to considerable heights. If the trees become too tall, the fruit is more difficult to collect. So, the trees are cut down to make room for more trees.
The demand for palm oil across the world is incredibly high — far higher than the number of palm oil the trees can supply. According to the Guardian, India, China, and Indonesia’s demand for palm oil alone totals 40% of global palm oil consumptions. To meet this consumer demand, rainforests are cut down to plant the more profitable palm oil trees in their place. Unfortunately these rainforests are home to so many animals and delicate ecosystems. Essentially, we are replacing trees that benefit animals for trees that benefit humans. So we are basically wiping out many different animals and some are already almost extinct. The impact has been devastating for orangutans in particular, with an estimated 100,000 deaths of the primate caused by deforestation over the last 16 years, which is not just sad but also totally unnecessary. On top of that, the burning of these rainforests is said to have contributed to the high levels of pollution witnessed in parts of Asia.

And what is palm oil used in?

Palm oil is used in a host of products, from food to cosmetics, to cleaning products and margarine. It is also difficult to avoid products with palm oil in, as many products do not explicitly state their palm oil content — the ingredient has so many different names and derivatives that can be listed, so it's basically sneakily hidden away, unless you know what you are looking for.
Some products will, however, list that they are “RSPO”, which means their palm oils have come from certified sustainable palm oil sources as certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oils. However, there has been some criticism of the RSPO due to their lack of clarity regarding clearing rainforests to grow more palm oil trees.

Compost Direct Study: A small shopping list

Here is a small example shopping list from Which’s top rated online supermarket of 2018, Iceland. Compost Direct selected two ‘best seller’ products from each of Iceland’s ‘popular categories’: Frozen, Fresh, Food Cupboard, Household, Drinks, and Bakery*.
Initially, they checked the ingredients list provided for each product (either on Iceland’s website or on the brand’s website) for any clear indication of palm oil. They included the terms ‘palm fat’, ‘vegetable oil (palm)’ and other obvious variants. Then Compost Direct checked through the ingredients lists and compared it to the 426 alternative palm oil names listed by Palm Oil Investigations. In these instances, upon one alternative name being spotted in the ingredients list of a product, they marked the product as potentially containing palm oil, as these ingredients could come from other sources.
Product
Palm oil clearly listed in ingredients?
Palm oil referred to by a different name in ingredient?
Result
Frozen: Iceland 60 Crispy Chicken Dippers
No
No
Contains no palm oil**
Frozen: Chicago Town 2 Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizzas
No
No
Contains no palm oil**
Chilled: Utterly Butterly Spread
Yes
No
Contains palm oil**
Chilled: Rustlers Flame Grilled Cheese Burger
No
No
Contains no palm oil**
Food Cupboard: Kinder Bueno Milk and Hazelnut
Yes
No
Contains palm oil**
Food Cupboard: Pot Noodle Chicken & Mushroom
Yes
No
Contains palm oil**
Household: Peril Non Bio Washing Liquid
No
Contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
Household: Surf Tropical Lily Washing Powder
No
No
Contains no palm oil**
Drinks: Galaxy Instant Hot Chocolate
Yes
Contains palm fat
Contains palm oil**
Drinks: Pepsi Max
No
No
Contains no palm oil**
Bakery: Warburtons Toastie Thick Sliced Soft White Bread
Yes
Contains sustainable palm oil
Contains palm oil**
Bakery: Iceland Thick Tiger Bloomer Bread
No
No
Contains no palm oil**

Cosmetics

As Iceland don’t sell cosmetics, Compost Direct also headed to Superdrug to look at their best sellers. Again, they used the ingredients lists available on the product page of Superdrug, or consulted the brand’s own page if needed.

Product
Palm oil clearly listed in ingredients?
Palm oil referred to by a different name in ingredient?
Result
Face: NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation – Light Ivory
No
Contains Caprylyl Glycol
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
Face: NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Concealer – Neutral Buff
No
Contains Ethylhexylglycerin
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
Lip: Revolution Rose Gold Lipstick Chauffeur
No
Contains Ethylhexyl Palmitate
Contains palm oil**
Lip: Nyx Professional Makeup Candy Stick Lip – Birthday Sprinkles
No
Contains Glycerin
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
Eyes: MUA Eyeshadow Palette – Elysium
No
No
Contains no palm oil**
Eyes: Max Factor Rise & Shine Mascara Black
No
Contains glycerol
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
Washing & Bathing: Palmolive Gourmet Vanilla Pleasure Shower Gel Cream
No
Contains Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
Washing & Bathing: Imperial Leather Cosmic Unicorn Shower Gel
No
Contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
Shampoo: TRESemme Moisture Rich Luxurious Moisture Shampoo
No
Contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
Shampoo: Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Shampoo Argan Oil of Morocco
No
Contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Ingredients potentially derived from palm
*As of 4th March 2019 **According to ingredient list research — potentially used under another name.

The results

Overall the small online grocery and cosmetics shopping lists contained 22 items in total. Seven of the items did not appear to contain any form of palm oil and 15 items in total either contained or potentially contained palm oil based ingredients. So that's a huge 68% of the shopping list that could rely on palm oil!

It’s clear that palm oil is still used on our shopping shelves, both online and offline. Even if you’re seeking to live a greener, healthier life, it’s easy to get caught out by the numerous different names for palm oil as an ingredient. It's almost as if it's playing hide and seek in the ingredients. In order to truly help with the planet’s health, we must remember to be vigilant across all areas of climate change contributors, from plastic in the sea to deforestation, and not just whatever the current environmental trend is today. It’s an ongoing change we all need to be a part of in order to hopefully see things change for the better. In the mean time, I shall definitely be checking the ingredients of items on my shopping lists more!
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1 comment:

  1. I think it's awful how many products contain palm oil, surely it could be replaced with another ingredient.
    I do try not to buy products containing palm oil when shopping x

    ReplyDelete

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