What is palm oil and why is it so bad for the environment?

Ciara Sheppard
·Contributor Yahoo Style UK
Palm oil is damaging our tropical rainforests [Photo: Getty]
Palm oil is damaging our tropical rainforests [Photo: Getty]

Palm oil is used in roughly 50% of the products on supermarket shelves – from the packaged bread we eat to washing detergent we use on our clothes and the lipstick we wear.

Yet so many of us don’t know what it is, or, more importantly, the harm it’s doing.

Today, Iceland announced plans to remove palm oil from all own-label products amid growing concerns the product is leading to the destruction of tropical rainforests, which are home to some of the world’s most endangered species.

Palm oil is a major part of the economy in areas such Sumatra, the Heart of Borneo and the Congo Basin. The production of the oil helps lift many people in these areas out of poverty, but the harm it’s doing to their homes cannot be overlooked.

The major drawback of oil palm plantations is that they are developed in low lying, wet, tropical areas – exactly where rainforests grow and endangered species such as orangutan and tigers once thrived,” says WWF.

“Clearing land for palm oil plantations has led to widespread loss of rainforests in Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond. Destruction of forests also drives climate change.”

The procurement of the oil is causing displacement of indigenous peoples, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, according to Rainforest Rescue.

Sustainable palm oil is a substitute that doesn’t cause the same harm, and luckily more companies are transferring over – but there’s still a long way to go.

If you want to keep tabs on the amount of palm oil-heaving companies you’re buying into, this handy website ranks our country’s favourite supermarkets and retailers on their commitment to going palm oil-free.

Out of those analysed, Boots is leading the way with Marks & Spencer following closely behind.

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