We Know Palm Oil Is Bad, But What About Palm Oil Waste?

Many conscious consumers already said no to palm oil. There are so many reasons. Plus, an orangutantold humans why palm oil is bad news.

If you’ve already scratched palmate, palm oil kernel, hydrated palm glycerides and anything with palmitate off your shopping list, now you have another consumer decision to consider.

What role will palm oil waste advances and technologies play in your consumption habits?

Traditional Palm Oil Waste

In a chapter entitled “The Oil Palm Wastes in Malaysia,” N. Abdullah and F. Sulaiman explain how palm oil waste was typically burned in the open. However, the Malaysian government intervened and discouraged open burning because thepractice “causes air pollution.” According to the authors, the government’s efforts to curtail open burning practices haven’t been 100 percent successful. If palm waste isn’t burned, then it is used “for mulching and as fertiliser [sic].” However, many growers are reluctant to use palm waste fertilizer because of the “oil palm pests” that follow.

Palm Oil Waste Innovations

These are three recent alternative developments in palm oil waste management. While it’s still early, it is important to learn about these advances because these products (or their by-products) might trickle down to your everyday life.

1. The Pulp Green Tech Holding (PGT) reports that it has created a quality paper pulp from empty palm fruit bunches, or leftover waste from the palm oil extraction phase.

Sustainable Brands cites that the company estimates that 95 percent, or 300 million tons, of the empty palm fruit bunches is currently being thrown away. PGT promotes their technology as “‘highly profitable and green.’”

2. As Science Daily reports , the empty fruit bunches from the palm oil extraction process are ”lignocellulose-rich by-product[s]” that can be converted to “industrially useful lactic acid.”

Jin Chuan Wu, along with the team at the A*STAR Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, found that his newly discovered bacterial strain of L-lactic acid is a much more inexpensive alternative to the present cornstarch production.

3. As reported in BioMass Magazine, NextFuels is looking to convert palm oil waste to “drop-in coal and petroleum replacements” for advanced biofuel production. NextFuels explains that, unlike current biofuel production practices, their technology can process “wet biomass.” The company is looking to expand quickly, both in facilities and partnerships with palm oil producers. NextFuels claims that “its commercial-scale facilities are expected to produce approximately 1,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.”

You can expect more types of innovations, too. As The Guardian highlights, “The market for palm oil has softened greatly supply now exceeds demand.” Something needs to happen to that excessive supply and its excessive waste — cue more alternative inventions for every part of the palm. The money needs to come from somewhere, right?

Green Expert Says

In a 2014 Q&A with The Wall Street Journal, John Sauven, the director of Greenpeace UK, explained Greenpeace’s perspective on reaching a “truce” with the Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

When asked about the “truce” between Greenpeace and APP, Sauven replied:

We’re and environmental organization. We want to protect the environment. We’re not out to destroy business. We’re out to create a system where people protect the natural environment and also the interests of local people.

Palm Oil Waste Dilemma

Palm waste innovations can put some conscious consumers in a dilemma. While palm oil waste management advances are inextricably linked to and profit from the palm oil industry, they can also make better use of the existing waste (e.g., avoiding air pollution).

Are we palming sustainability off if we support these new palm oil waste technologies? After all, these new advances come at the cost of human, animal and environmental exploitation.

Or are the alternatives better than the traditional waste management systems, and should consumers encourage these companies to act more sustainably and green? Since the palm oil industry isn’t going anywhere, should we take a cue from Sauven and work to create a better system that benefits everyone?

Photo Credit: Glenn Hurowitz


hELEN hEARFIELD6 months ago


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Mark Donner
Mark Donner4 years ago

"try telling people that palm oil is not good for them" Ridiculous reasoning. Palm oil is a monoculture destroying the rain forest and countless species to sell in massive lots to the west. This has nothing to do with "poor people". Any group that is destroying our earth is equally criminal. "poor people" trying to get rich off the destruction of the earth are actually more criminal and more guilty, than drug smugglers. A criminal is a criminal and ignorance is no excuse, and I would support mandatory prison sentences for all them. The same goes for wildlife smugglers and poachers except those scum should get an automatic death sentence

Lynn C.
Past Member 5 years ago


John Clendon
John Clendon5 years ago

Destroying the rain forest?? ..... None of the 305,402 small farming families in Thailand have cut down any rainforest to plant oil palms. They are just trying to make a better living by converting their small farms to a more productive crop. There are many reasons for the alarming destruction of the world's rain forests. The three leading causes are (i) logging (ii) population explosion (iii) poverty.
Palm oil is not good for human consumption?? ..... But it has been a staple human food for millennia. Without this nutritious vegetable oil in their daily diet many of the world's people would suffer serious malnutrition or starvation. Try telling these people that palm oil is not good for them!

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

The fact that palm oils are destroying the rainforest makes it some thing I do not want to buy. Then there is the health issue that palm oil is not good for human consumption.
It is good that they are figuring out how to recycle the waste. Just stop taking our the rainforest to grow that stuff.

Angela Ray
Angela Ray5 years ago

Then that's double bad!

Franck R.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Ana Marija R.
ANA MARIJA R5 years ago

Thank you for the reminder.
Petition signed.

John Clendon
John Clendon5 years ago

Just a couple more boring facts:
(1) World population in 1990 was 5.30 billion.
By 2010 it had increased to 6.91 billion
By 2050 it is forecast to be 9.3 billion people. According to the FAO, to feed this population as many as 45 out of every 100 additional calories will probably come from oil crops or their products. Therefore, by 2050 we will require an extra 150 million tonnes of edible oil each year. We have to decide where that will come from.
(2) Also according to the FAO : Of the 300 million hectares global deforestation between 1990 and 2010, about 3% was planted with oil palms.(which incidentally accounted for 42% of the increased supply of edible oils during that period).