This is how palm oil is made

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mature stand of oil palms

credit: K Martinko

1. Mature palm oil plantation

The next time you walk into a grocery store, take a moment to think about the fact that 50 percent of the items you see contain palm oil. Despite its ubiquity and familiar presence on ingredient lists, palm oil is a foreign, tropical product that most North Americans know very little about. Did you ever wonder where it comes from? How it’s grown and processed? Who handles it along the way? Do you know what a palm fruit looks like?

Last month, TreeHugger contributing writer Katherine Martinko traveled to Honduras as a guest of the Rainforest Alliance. This slideshow provides an overview of the production process that Katherine saw at Hondupalma, the world’s first certified sustainable palm oil cooperative.

This is a mature palm plantation that’s reaching end of life. Oil palms are able to produce fruit for harvest within 4 to 6 years of planting, if fertilized well. Life expectancy is 28 to 30 years on average, at which point they are usually 40 feet / 12 metres high and it becomes too hard to harvest the heavy fruit bundles using extension poles. The palms are injected with pesticide, which kills the tree from within, and eventually they get bulldozed in order to make room for new oil palms.