Imagine an ingredient that makes soaps foamier, crisps crispier, and can even make cookies healthier – all while feeding animals, and fuelling cars!

What is this magical mystery ingredient, you ask? Well, gang, it’s palm oiland you can find it almost everywhere! But what is palm oil, and why does it have a bad reputation, when it comes to the planet? Read on to find out…

What is palm oil?

what is palm oil | orange fleshy fruits, with a white centre ringed with black

Palm oil is harvested from the fruit of oil palm trees (Elaeis guineensis). Squeezing the fleshy fruit will produce crude palm oil, while crushing the kernel (seed) of the fruit will produce palm kernel oil.

Oil palm trees are native to Africa and historically grew in countries to its west and south-west. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were introduced to Indonesia and Malaysia. Today, these countries produce over 85% of the global supply of palm oil!

What is palm oil used for?

colourful supermarket shelves are covered in packages

Well, the answer is just about everything! Almost 50% of the packaged products in supermarkets contain palm oil, because it’s such an adaptable ingredient that can be used in a huge variety of things.

Its texture can help make things spreadable, it helps give products a longer shelf-life, and importantly, it has no odour or colour, so it doesn’t affect the look or smell of the products it’s used in. All these benefits make it very attractive to manufacturers.

  • Check out this list of everyday items you might find at the supermarket. Can you guess which ones contain palm oil?
  • – Toothpaste
  • – Frozen pizza
  • – Shampoo
  • – Lipstick
  • – Biscuits
  • – Packaged bread
  • – Margarine
  • – Ice cream
  • – Cereal
  • – Soap

How many did you guess? If you guessed all of them, then you’re right!

Why is palm oil bad?

what is palm oil | a dense plantation full of trees

Before palm oil ends up in your products, oil palm trees have to be grown on a plantation (an area of land used to farm crops), and that plantation takes up land. In fact, with global demand for palm oil being so high, oil palm plantations now cover huge areas of Indonesia and Malaysia.

To make way for palm oil plantations, huge areas of rainforest are being destroyed. In fact, palm oil production is one of the biggest reasons for deforestation around the world. As forests are torn up, the endangered species that live in them – like orangutans, elephants and gorillas – suffer, too. If nothing changes, many of these species may soon become extinct.

And that’s not all, because the cutting down of trees and an increased risk of wildfires on plantations causes lots of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. And that’s bad news for climate change!

How can I help?

a mother orangutan and baby sit in a healthy rainforest tree

Thankfully, there is a better way of doing things. More and more companies around the world are using sustainable palm oil. This means palm oil that’s used and produced in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. And others are creating brilliant products that avoid palm oil altogether!

TOP TIP!

You can check whether a product contains sustainable palm oil by looking for the RSPO label, which was created by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to signal that a product uses responsibly sourced palm oil. It can be a little hard to find, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled!

You can also do your own research and find out which of your favourite products contain palm oil. If they do and you don’t know if it’s sustainable or not, then why not get in contact with the manufacturer, and ask them about it? You can make a difference!

Check out this list by the Ethical Consumer. It lists all the common products that contain palm oil and includes palm-oil free options, too!

Thanks to Vlad Hilitanu; Fikri Rasyid; Peter Bond; Nazarizal Mohammad; Ihsan Aditya; Bishnu Sarangi, and Tafilah Yusof for the images used in this article.

What did you think of our palm oil article? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment, below!

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COMMENTS

  • Unique Monique

    Wow cool next time a bit more detail

  • lol

  • Mblum

  • 1234567890

    In year 5 i learnt this I know more now #savethewildlife

  • 87

    no i no that palm oil is bad ill stop buying it

  • saxyBEAST123

    that was AMAZING

  • Asees

    Save the rainforest

  • hi

    good story

  • bob

    yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay

  • save the animals!

    yea no palm oil

  • milla

    i love minecraft and frogs

  • me

    Im suprised that palm oil is so useful but so destructive. This article definitely taught me something new.Keep up the good work :]

  • among us

    this is a among us article and is epic

  • Wow!

    Wow!

  • Ash

    palm oil

  • B O B

    GOOD

  • Alexie

    It was outstanding and it really taught us about what palm oil can do to the environment

  • Emma

    Protect the ocean

  • Great

  • Alana

    cool! :]

  • xxoxmochi

    COOL!

  • Emma

    Love animals stay cool drink water and play

  • benjvgvfuhyn20794grejdgx

    cool

  • I am sad that its bad news for some amimals

  • cool

  • cool

  • Emma

    LOVE YOURSELF And be cool

  • Gold

    Wow

  • Grace

    They have to stop! We must do something about this!

  • Christian Bruen Liston

    we can still help climate change

  • Liam

  • Liam

  • Jacob

  • Ellie

    We have to save our planet

  • Greensnails

    interesting!

  • nootrac

    We have to take action

  • Ruichen

    I like facts

  • Viv

    I want to do anything to help!!

  • danny

    this helped me with school, thanks

  • danny

    thanks whoever made this artical!

  • Arturo

  • Gegrelden

  • Harry

    Cool

  • Harry

    Cool

  • Blanookie

  • INFINITY_BEEM

    i want to eat more palm oil

  • Lizard

  • Buzzybee

    Thank you! I am so inspired! I will not use palm oil any more! :-)

  • rosiie

    wow! so intresting

  • unspeakable

    i love frogs and minecraft

  • claywingsoffirenw

    sad I now hate plam oil

  • ariel

    greaat

  • Leader

    I LOVE ANIMALS!!!! So... I AM GOING TO HELP...but can I live without palm oil... OF COURSE I CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM GOING TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT

  • macyt5

    SOOOO COOL!

  • isira

    cool

  • kaitlyn

    I LOVE ANIMALS!!!! So... I AM GOING TO HELP...But can I live without palm oil... OF COURSE I CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM GOING TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT!!!!!!

  • monkey

    wow.

  • I like this

  • something

    It is like plastic. Harmful for environment but useful. Should find sustainable version.

  • save the ocean

    palm oil is bad for the planet!

  • Bella

    i feel so bad :( i really wan tot help

  • charlotte

    i dont care lol

  • Kyala

    Good info report!!!

  • Evelyn

    I think Pam oil is terrible but quite useful so I will always check the label also I found out loads of stuff that I can help with

  • Ethan

    We need to get rid of it!

  • G110964

  • Mother Earth

    Palm oil is so bad for the environment, and it contributes to climate change. Here's why: Around 71% of our world is covered in water, and most of it is filled with plastic. It’s in the air, our food and our drinks. This is called Ocean Pollution, and it also contributes to climate change. It kills marine life, makes the ocean more acidic, produces carbon dioxide and the heat from the sun reflected on all of the microplastics melts ice and glaciers. Some side effects of climate change on oceans are dead sea life and higher sea levels. 31% of Earth is covered in trees. Trees are so important to aid defence against climate change. They store carbon dioxide, but when humans cut down trees, they release carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

  • 1234567890102030

  • cool

  • Ec0 Warrior

  • Anabella Cairns

    I have always known that palm oil is bad for the environment, but I never knew why!

  • OOF

    OOF that is so sad for our poor earth.

  • ECO WARRIOR

    This inspired me to learn more about the environment. It has always been a dream of mine to join National Geographic when I'm older and go an explore the world.

  • So interesting. I’m glad people are taking action and we can help

  • Phantom Phoenix

  • anouk

  • me

  • Cool

  • xdOlliePlyz11

    Very Intersting!

  • zakizoto

    wow

  • Stinky strawberries

  • R Pukianec

    Wow thare are lots of incredible facts about palm oil.

  • Wow!

  • Archer

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