Can palm oil enter the circular economy?

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Palm oil is the wonderstuff of fats. It makes our cookies crunchier, shampoo bubblier and lipstick smoother, all for a fraction of the price of other oils. However, a recent media storm has cast a shadow on the industry. Headlines have exposed the mass deforestation at the hands of palm oil production, and all the gory social and environmental issues that comes with it. In 2017 Indonesia produced 38 million tons of crude palm oil (CPO). Though CPO has become an important stock of biodiesel for both its domestic and export markets, its waste product- palm oil mill effluent (POME) – has failed to capture the attention of the energy sector. Last year, only eight percent of Indonesia’s potential electricity generation from POME was used. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that less than 10 percent of Indonesia’s palm oil mills actually have biomass processing plants on site.

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