UK-based Vectair Systems has made a conscious effort to minimise the use of palm oil in cleaning products by resorting to alternatives
The recent documentary (aired on the BBC), “Climate Change: The Facts”, told how the soaring demand for palm oil was leading to largescale deforestation with bigger areas of rainforest being torn down and replaced with palm oil plantations. It also explored the effects that palm oil sourcing is having on the orangutan population, as well as other breeds of animal.
With palm oil used in up to 50 per cent of all consumer goods, from lipstick and packaged food to body lotion and biofuels, the subject of palm oil manufacturing is highly topical to our industry sector. It is widely recognised that palm oil is not going away and that, in fact, production is expected to double by 2050 as demand grows in Asia and other emerging markets.
But what is palm oil and why is the subject so important in terms of the environment?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil derived from the pulp of the fruit of oil palm trees (predominantly the West African oil palm). To produce palm oil, the fruit is collected from trees, which would usually live an average of around 28-30 years. However, once the trees grow too high and too difficult for the fruit to be reached, they are cut down to make room for new trees – which contributes to deforestation of the rainforest. Palm oil is chosen as an ingredient for so many products as it has very little appropriate alternatives.
Palm oil’s technical utility comes from its high melting point. Since palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature, it has a variety of uses from baking products and spreads to frying. Though animal fats also have this quality, they are far more expensive to produce.
To keep up with the incredibly high demand, acres of rainforest are being cut down — leading to a loss of animal habitat for endangered species. In the past 16 years, the quest for palm oil has led to the death of an estimated 100,000 orangutans.
However, the good news is that, according to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), the palm oil industry can grow and prosper without sacrificing any more tropical forests or causing conflict with communities. WWF believes that companies that produce palm oil should follow the standard and guidance of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). And palm oil buyers should support them by using RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil.
The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When they are properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions.
And this is where manufacturers can start supporting the palm oil cause.
Paul Wonnacott, President & CEO of Vectair Systems, says: “Palm oil manufacture is growing at an alarming rate, and it is imperative to think of the impact this can have on future generations. At Vectair, wherever possible, when manufacturing our products we substitute palm oil for other materials or components. Where we do use palm oil, we commit to using only palm oil that is RSPO registered. Our Sanitex® soaps, for example, only contain RSPO registered palm oil.
“Not only that, our V-Air® SOLID fragrance dispenser and refills are both not only Carbon certified, but Carbon neutral, meaning we offset any carbon emissions against projects around the world. As a commitment to the environment, two of the projects we have chosen to support with funding have primary aims to reduce deforestation and plant trees – One in the Amazonian rainforest, Brazil, and one in the UK.”
By tackling the issues of palm oil now we can all work towards a sustainable and feasible alternative to loss of forests and animal habitats.