What is Palm Oil?
Posted on 1st February 2020 at 19:32
Palm Oil - What is it?
Palm oil is oil that comes from the fruit of the elaeis guineensis tree. This tree is native to west and south west Africa.The trees grow naturally in tropical rainforests and thrive under these conditions.
Palm oil can only be grown commercially in the tropical regions of our planet.
The palm oil we consume comes from either the palm fruit or the palm kernel.
The palm fruit is the red fleshy part which is squeezed and compressed to extract the palm oil, which will initially come out red.
Once refined the palm oil will be a yellow-white colour resembling other solid oils such as butter or margarine.
Palm kernel oil is the white seed of the fruit which is also edible. The palm kernel oil takes more effort to extract as the oils are locked up in the seeds. The process involved heating up the kernel, then crushing it into a paste.
It is from compressing and squeezing this paste the oil will come out. Once this is done it will go through a similar refining process to the red fruit palm oil.
Why do we use it?
Palm oil has been used and harvested for at least 5,000 years. Human beings have been using it as a cooking oil and source of food for a long time.
Palm oil’s rise to prominence started in the 19th century with the British industrial revolution. They used it as a lubricant, and as you well know most oils are excellent lubricants.
An American company started making soap with it, an incredibly successful brand, which when mixed with olive oil and saponified made a cheap soap, which the mass market loved.
Since these early breakthroughs in palm oil we have been obsessed with it, finding ever more ways of using this incredibly cheap commodity. Palm oil is still the cheapest oil you can buy today, due to its incredible ability to produce a large amount of oil from a small amount of land.
Palm oil itself is an incredibly efficient plant. It has the highest productivity per hectare of land used for all the major oils we use today.
Palm oil produces around 4 tonnes of oil per hectare of land. When you compare that to others such as coconut (2 tonnes), rapeseed (0.75 tonnes), sunflower (0.75 tonnes), and soy (0.4 tonnes), you can see the reason why it’s so cheap.
Why is Palm Oil Bad?
The problem with Palm oil is not that it isn’t an incredibly useful crop. The problem is with the way it is produced and the harmful effect it is having on the environment.
Palm oil is responsible for 8% of deforestation in the entire world from 1990 up until 2008. That may not seem like that high of a figure but the figures are a bit more alarming when you look at the countries producing it.
In Indonesia, a country mainly covered in rainforest, palm oil plantations have caused 47% of the deforestation. This works out to be 490,000 hectares currently lost each year to palm oil production; to put that into perspective that equates to an area the size of Northumberland being lost every year, and this is in Indonesia alone!
Deforestation is occurring in all countries producing palm oil, including: Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Brazil, India, Cameroon and Sierra Leone.
Deforestation is a pretty big problem on its own, with a huge environmental impact on the world. But it’s how they deforest the land to make room for crops which really adds to the environmental impact.
They set fire to it and burn down the habitat that is already there to make room for the crop.
This clearing of land causes huge amounts of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere as well as black soot. In 2013, children in Singapore were told to stay inside because of the toxic haze over the city. This was caused by burning forests to clear land to produce palm oil.
Health is another issue with palm oil. We consume this oil in a lot of food without even knowing it. Unless you read the label, which most people do not. Palm oil is high in saturated fat.
Saturated fat is bad because when it is inside of you it is more likely to solidify causing blockages in your veins and arteries. Oils low in saturated fat, such as olive oil and rapeseed oil, tend to be liquid at room temperature.
Palm oil can be found in many products that we eat such as: chocolate, instant noodles, ice cream, cookies, bread, pizza dough, margarine and vegetable spreads.
In 2014, the EU introduced new legislation where food containing palm oil had to be labelled as ‘palm oil’ and not merely vegetable oil. This has helped people who do check the labels on their food, to reduce their intake of palm oil.
Why we make Palm Oil Free Soap!
The majority of soaps that are available in British supermarkets today contain palm oil as one of their main ingredients. Of the shops we surveyed only one had palm oil free soap and that accounted for roughly 4% of the products available.
Here at Seatree Cosmetics we refuse to use palm oil in our products because of the huge effect it is having on deforestation in the world which is a contributor to climate change.
Another large factor in why we don’t use it in our products is the damage it is doing to the habitats of some of the most endangered species in the world. It is predicted if we don’t drastically reduce our consumption of palm oil then the orangutan will be extinct in the wild in 10 years time.
As well as the orang-utan, which seems to be the face of the fight against it, there are entire eco-systems being destroyed. Even creatures that have never been discovered before, we are wiping off the face of the earth to satisfy our need for this cheap product.
The last reason we don’t use palm oil is it is incredibly drying. Good soap that leaves your skin soft and moisturised contain only a small amount of natural cleansers and the rest will contain other oils which will not dry the skin.
From what we can see about most of the brands available in the supermarkets, a large percentage of their soap is made using palm oil and palm kernel oil.
Another large portion of their ingredients is sodium laureth sulphate (SLS), which is a derivative of palm oil. These cheap and nasty chemicals may be why they can offer a bar of soap very cheaply.
At Seatree Cosmetics we only use the highest quality ingredients in our soap bars, which have been specially formulated to leave your skin feeling soft and moisturised. Plus our soap is 100% natural and contains no chemicals, parabens, sulphates or palm oil.
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