UK city bets on palm oil in the fight against deforestation |  Palm oil

UK city bets on palm oil in the fight against deforestation | Palm oil

FFrom mince pies and cookies to lipstick and soap, palm oil grown on deforested land in Southeast Asia will have been hard to avoid this Christmas. Vegetable oil is found in almost half of all packaged goods in UK supermarkets, according to WWF.

But a growing number of towns and cities are trying to use only sustainable palm oil, helping orangutans, tigers, Sumatran rhinos, and many other threatened species.

Led by Chester in the North West of England, the world’s first sustainable palm oil city, restaurants, small businesses and art venues are joining forces to eradicate deforestation-linked forms of vegetable oil from their supply chains. A school dinner provider has even signed up in Chester, the first to be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Oxford, Plymouth and the town of Mochdre in North Wales are following Chester’s lead, and more are expected to follow.

“The palm oil situation is a big problem,” says Catherine Barton, a field conservation manager at Chester Zoo, who has led the sustainable city campaign after a visit to Malaysia’s Borneo. “Forest elephant and orangutan populations are separated by plantations. You get a conflict between humans and wildlife when they move to those areas. It was because of working with communities that we think as users [of palm oil], we can try to change the industry. “

Orangutans, tigers, Sumatran rhinos, and many other threatened species are affected by habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict that results from palm oil plantations.
Orangutans, tigers, Sumatran rhinos, and many other threatened species are affected by habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict that results from palm oil plantations. Photograph: Vier Pfoten / Four Paws / Rhoi / REX / Shutterstock

The UK is a mainly sustainable small palm oil consumer. Globally, most palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia and is not sustainably certified by the RSPO. While companies like Iceland have stopped using palm oil, Barton says a total ban is not the answer and that making sustainable palm oil the default ingredient in products, from baby formula to shampoo, would have a much greater impact on conservation, while supporting communities that depend on the harvest of palm fruits.

Chester Zoo has helped companies such as a small Welsh fudge producer and an animal feed supplier review and adapt their supply chains with the goal of eliminating all products containing non-RSPO-certified palm oil.

Fast guide

Palm oil

Show

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil produced from the fruit of the oil palm and is native to Africa. It comes in two forms: one from pressing the pulp of the oil palm fruit, the other from crushing its grain.

Palm oil is one of the most widely used ingredients in the world and is the most efficient vegetable oil to grow as it requires much less land than other alternatives such as rapeseed and corn. However, large areas of rainforest have been cut down for its production.

What does palm oil contain?

Palm oil is everywhere and is often not clearly labeled. Detergent, ice cream, and biofuel are likely to contain it. WWF compiles a list of products that are likely to contain palm oil.

How can I avoid palm oil linked to deforestation?

While a considerable amount of environmental destruction is linked to palm oil production, many conservation NGOs warn that it would be a mistake to boycott it. Instead, WWF, Chester Zoo and others advocate the use of sustainable palm oil accredited by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This must be clearly labeled on the products.

Thank you for your comments.

“If palm oil is released in the UK, it won’t have an impact on orangutans or influence the industry,” says Barton. “So, as an NGO, we feel that we have to be part of that conversation. And we use the UK and Europe as influencers to change the industry rather than move away from it. ”Barton emphasizes that palm oil is a much more productive crop than alternatives such as rapeseed or corn.

Large areas of Indonesia and Malaysia have been deforested for palm oil plantations, including carbon-dense peatlands that have been drained and burned, leading to huge greenhouse gas emissions.

At Cop26 in Glasgow, world leaders pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and degradation by 2030. Green global supply chains will be key to achieving that goal. To help protect standing forests, RSPO certification accredits producers and consumers of sustainable palm oil. The UK government is consulting on plans to ban large companies from using products grown on illegally deforested land.

Smoking bog following a suspected bushfire in Kampar, Sumatra, in 2019.
Smoking bog following a suspected bushfire in Kampar, Sumatra, in 2019. Photograph: Adek Berry / AFP / Getty Images

Jason Ellison, owner of a French restaurant, Chez Jules, was one of the first companies to join the campaign in Chester. He says checking his supply chain meant looking for palm oil in unusual places.

“I am not a scientist. The zoo was very helpful. They gave us a list of all the places where you would find palm oil: in bread, cake mixes, baking products… We use digestive biscuits as the base for one of our desserts, for example. That’s where we were zooming in. “

Ian McGrady, managing director of Edsential, a social business that offers school dinners in Chester, says that becoming the first RSPO-certified school food supplier in England has helped teach children about the origin of their food.

“What we want to do is link the school meals with the conservation of the field, so that the children see that if they make a decision, they can make a difference on the field. The cost tends to outweigh any kind of ethical sourcing, even within schools, ”he says. “We worked with the major suppliers to see where they were in terms of palm oil and certification. It is absolutely possible to do it. “

Find more coverage on the age of extinction here and follow the biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston Y Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for the latest news and features

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.