Palm Oil and the Environment Dimi Voliotis
What is palm oil? Palm oil is the second most widely produced edible oil. Each year, Australia imports approximately 130,000 tons of palm oil. Palm oil and its derivatives are found in around 50 percent of all packaged foods on Australian shelves. It has a longer shelf life than other vegetable oils making it more appealing for food production. Palm oil is found in many food products including biscuits, chips, crackers and batters. It is also found in toothpaste, soap, shampoo and cosmetics.
Things that consist of Palm Oil Vegetable oil Anything containing “stearate, stearyl” Anything containing the words “cetyl, cetearyl” Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) Sodium Laureth Sulphate Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS) Sodium Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate Steareth -2 Steareth -20 Emulsifier 422, 430-36, 465-67, 470-8, 481-483
What harm is palm oil doing to the Environment? With deforestation happening all over the globe, it's obvious that this would have an effect on the wide variety of species that live in the forests. Deforestation for the establishment of palm oil plantations is responsible for habitat loss for threatened and endangered species. Priority species impacted by forest clearing are the Asian Elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros and the Orangutan. The Asian elephant and Bornean Orangutan are endangered and the tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros and Sumatran Orangutan are 'critically endangered.'
Why the big deal about Orangutans? With plantations going through deforestation all around the globe, scientists are saying that one of our closest relatives, the Orangutans, will be extinct within the space of 10 years.
Impacts of Oil Development The development of oil palm plantations causes the fragmentation of forests, which reduces the natural habitat of Orangutans. There are about 25,000 kilometres of oil palm plantations in Borneo, and the area is consistently increasing. Where forests are being converted for oil palm plantations, poaching of Orangutans for the illegal pet trade is more apparent.
Forest fires are set deliberately to clear land for plantations. Not only do fires destroy vast areas of Orangutan habitat, but thousands of these slow-moving apes are thought to have burned to death, unable to escape the flames. In some areas of Borneo and Sumatra, Orangutans are shot as pests by plantation owners or farmers.