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All you need to know
How Singaporeans can help stop the Haze
Transboundary haze pollution has been an almost annual occurrence in Southeast Asia since the 1970s. The haze is composed of smoke particles from huge peat and vegetation fires that occur mainly in Malaysia and Indonesia and is carried by the wind over hundreds of kilometers. One of the main causes are unsustainable practices in the palm oil industry.
The 2015 haze in figures
Haze pollution causes health, economic and environmental impacts to several Southeast Asian countries, notably Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, and to a lesser extent Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
record high of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentration in Singapore. Short-term exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat in healthy individuals, while aggravating existing heart or lung conditions.
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What you can do: eatery outreach
We are all responsible for protecting the clean air we breathe. Many local eateries use unsustainable palm oil and are unaware their cooking oil may be causing the haze. We need your help to reach out and encourage Singaporean eateries to switch to haze-free cooking oil. Raise our demand for sustainable palm oil so that we can protect communities, forests, wildlife and the clean air we breathe!
Know an eatery owner and can link us up? Active on social media? Want to hangout with other haze-fighters? Join team Foodie!
Eatery boss referral
Do you know any eatery owners/managers that we could talk to? We need your help to link us up! Please write down below any eateries that you have contacts with and we’ll follow up with you on these leads.
Eatery Facebook jam
Engage in conversations with eateries through their facebook page!
Ela’s story: “Never again”
When haze hit Singapore in 2015, Ela was 5 years old. She had breathing difficulties and her condition got worse over time. She had to rely on medications just to breathe better.
Haze & the cooking oil in our food
If you’re eating out, be it at a Chinese restaurant, at a seafood place, a fast food joint or a Thai eatery, chances are you are consuming palm oil. Palm oil is often labelled as “vegetable oil”. Because it is cheaper than other type of cooking oil, it is the number one choice by many restaurants. In fact, palm oil is so widely used that any readily food that you buy, from curry puffs to fried chicken and fried noodles, is likely made using palm oil. So, what has palm oil got to do with the haze?
The haze is an air pollution problem that has been affecting Singapore as early as 1972. In recent years, haze episodes have become more frequent and severe. Since 2013, he have had haze every single year.
Kids, elderly and many of our loved ones fall sick because of the haze.
Every time the land burns, the fire risk increases for the following years. Moreover, due to climate change (which the fires are contributing to), every year is hotter in average than the previous one. This means the Haze will come back when a dry year like 2015 hits again and it will continue to come back over and over if nothing is done to prevent the fires!
Palm oil is a vegetable oil, widely used by eateries, which is mainly grown in Indonesia and Malaysia. A major cause of the haze is the mass clearing of rainforest by burning – in order to make space for palm oil plantations.
To stop haze, one of the first steps we can take is to switch to haze-free palm oil. Haze-free palm oil is simply palm oil produced by companies that do not engage in practices leading to haze pollution, such as burning. The closest we have to haze-free palm oil is palm oil certified by RSPO, a non-profit organisation.
To move fully away from palm oil is unrealistic. It is found in virtually all sorts of beauty and food products in our daily life.
Palm oil is a very efficient crop compared to other types of vegetable oils. Since other crops require more land to produce the same amount of oil, switching to other types of oil crops may lead to more impact on the environment. In addition, other oils may also have their own sustainability issues.
Moreover boycott would prevent any incentive for palm oil producers to improve their practices. Millions of ordinary farmers rely on palm plantations to earn a living. Palm oil in itself is not bad. It is the wrong production methods that causes haze and air pollution. Haze-free, sustainable methods of production are out there, and we need to encourage the use of sustainable palm oil over the unsustainable ones.
Haze-free palm oil can be produced by preventing the start and spread of fires. Companies that use zero-burning methods are also considered to produce haze-free palm oil. Further, it is widely accepted that palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is haze-free and therefore sustainable. The RSPO is a non-profit organization that uses a set of criteria to certify palm plantations that are environmentally and socially sustainable. A key RSPO criterion is the prohibition of forest-clearing.
PM.Haze encourages the use of RSPO-certified segregated palm oil, which refers to “sustainable palm oil from different certified sources,…, kept separate from ordinary palm oil throughout the supply chain.” We believe that promoting RSPO is the first step towards haze -free, sustainable palm oil. Our goal is to work with the RSPO and interested stakeholders, to increase the awareness and demand for certified sustainable palm oil (RSPO segregated supply chain certificate model).
To learn more about RSPO, visit their official website.
We aim to channel the public’s interest into on-the-ground efforts for change, such as outreach to eateries right here in Singapore.
A 2016 survey by PM Haze found that more than 90% of popular restaurant chains in Singapore use palm oil and none are haze-free. Switching to haze-free palm oil is not expensive. For eateries, cooking oil makes up a very small percentage of operational costs; RSPO-certified cooking oil costs about 10% more. There are local companies that supply RSPO-certified cooking oil.
In collaboration with WWF Singapore and Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), we launched the #XtheHaze campaign on 16 July 2015, to deliver the message of “We Breathe What We…