Palm Oil Spill An Environmental Disaster

 You may have heard about the recent disastrous ship collision in southern Chinese waters that resulted in 1,000 tonnes of palm oil being spilled into the ocean.

BOS Australia was contacted by eight year old, Roisin, who lives with her family on Lamma Island in Hong Kong.  The collision happened on Thursday the 3rd of August and by Sunday the 6th, Roisin witnessed huge amounts of palm oil washing up on the beaches of her home, along with many dead fish.


Pictured: Roisin and friend at their local beach on Lamma Island with globules of palm oil.


Roisin’s mother, Mairead has told us the beaches of Lamma Island have been hit the worst in all of Hong Kong and that initially the government did little to help the situation, leaving it up to local volunteer groups to clean the beaches.  After a week of intense media coverage and pressure from the public, the government has now declared this an environmental disaster.  Unfortunately, it has come too late, especially for the coastal marine life.


Pictured: A close up of the palm oil globules washing up onto the beach.


The oil is relentlessly washing up on the beach and with the hot weather, it is melting and then solidifying under the sands surface, making it extremely hard to remove.  It is filling up crevices in the rocks, making everything slippery and leaving the entire area covered in a rotting stench.  Volunteer groups are filling up hundreds of bags with the palm oil globules, some as large as footballs, but it keeps coming.


Pictured: The palm oil has brought rubbish up onto the beaches and into the rocks.

The government has repeatedly described the palm oil as non-toxic and harmless to humans, however after collecting rubbish and sea life in its path, there are suggestions that there is bacteria forming in the oil balls and that some of the volunteers on Lamma Island have become sick after handling the mess. Another huge environmental concern is that the oil will dissolve and break down, which could remove oxygen from the water and kill more marine life. 

So far 50 tonnes have been gathered in Hong Kong and 38 tonnes in Guangdong, however locals are questioning why more has not been done sooner to stop the spread of the oil.



Roisin asked us the question that is on many of our minds – “What can I do?”

Palm oil accounts for 35% of the world’s edible vegetable oil production with 85% of this sourced from Indonesia and Malaysia. The majority of palm oil (about 80%) is used in the food industry either as a vegetable oil or embedded in other ingredients. It can be found in many processed foods and also occurs widely in personal care, cosmetic and household products. 

It is extremely hard to avoid products containing palm oil, but there are a number of things you can do:

* Check the ingredients - if the product contains palm oil (usually labelled as vegetable oil or fat), check to see if it has the CSPO (certified sustainable palm oil) logo or contact the manufacturer to get details on the oil’s source. If it’s not CSPO, seek an alternative product and let the manufacturer know why you’ve chosen not to buy the product.

* Our palm oil free product list may help you in your buying decisions.

* A number of groups would welcome your support in campaigning for truth in labelling and protection of the rainforest: 
Palm Oil Action Group
Melbourne Zoo’s Don’t Palm Us Off
Palm Oil – Products on Australian shelves that contain palm oil

* Letters, protest postcards and petitions all play a part in informing the manufacturers and government that the community wants change. 

* Inform your family, friends and colleagues of the issue.

You can view BOS Australia’s palm oil policy here.