We welcomed in this week with the news from Iceland (the supermarket, not to be confused with the country) will be removing palm oil from their own brand products by the end of the year. Earlier this year, Iceland also announced its plans to reduce their plastic packaging which inspired our recent blog, Proudly Plastic Free. Who knew the frozen supermarket chain would be our new favourite in 2018? Waitrose have also recently announced a ban on their disposable (but non-recyclable) takeaway cups by autumn. After using more than 600 million disposable cups in the last 5 years, the NHS are making a return to china cups and saucers in a bid to reduce the reliance on single-use plastics. All brilliant news and here at Cosy Cottage HQ we are very excited with the direction big businesses such as these are taking towards sustainability.
Environmental Damage. Controversy surrounding Palm Oil has been around for years but the conversation has recently grown. One point of concern is the deforestation that occurs when companies clear vast areas of rainforests for Palm Oil production. In fact, in the 5 minutes or so your take to read this blog, an area the size of 1,500 football pitches has been destroyed to make room for Palm Oil. This occurs mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia where most Palm Oil is produced but spreads across wider areas of South-East Asia, Africa and South America. Naturally, this has led to an increase in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
Animals. As a direct result of this deforestation, animals are being displaced and killed. Orangutans are the most renowned species to be endangered by Palm Oil production with over 5,000 killed every year due to destruction of rainforests. Experts have estimated that around 90% of the Orangutan's habitat has been destroyed as a result of deforestation in the past 20 years. There are also dwindling numbers of elephants and tigers due to habitat destruction and the now easy access poachers have to the creatures.
Currently, ships can legally dump Palm Oil residue into the oceans. This residue, if consumed, could cause vomiting, kidney damage and gut issues in dogs.
Human Rights Issues. The Indonesian and Malayan governments often sell plots of land to Palm Oil Producers where indigenous people live. They are forced out of their homes and environment which they rely on. As a result, they often have no choice but to start working on the plantations where they are faced with poor working conditions and incredibly low pay. The Palm Oil industry is rife with issues of child labour and human trafficking too.
Palm Oil is the most commonly used vegetable oil and you will find it in almost half of the products in your local supermarket. Wandering around the shops, we found the controversial oil in everything from lipsticks to chocolate. Often disguised under a variety of names, much like SLS, it can be hard to pick out in a product's ingredient list. Here's a list of some of the names to keep an eye on as they indicate the use of Palm Oil:
Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palm Stearine, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Hydrate Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmidite, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Suphate.
What are the alternatives? Rapeseed, soybean and coconut oil are current substitutes for Palm Oil. The Cosy Cottage Soap Company has never used palm oil in any of its products, and never will. Like us, food and cosmetic companies can use sustainable vegetable oils as a replacement for Palm Oil. With sustainability coming at a higher price, they often stick to the cheaper option. Let's hope the Iceland news heralds a new era of ingredient consideration among big brands!