I do not know that the bleaching itself is harmful to the environment, but the process is very intensive and requires a large amount of energy investment. During the bleaching process, the crude palm oil is mixed with the bleaching agent to form a slurry. The slurry is transferred to a plate heat exchanger and steam heater, and the temperature is raised to 90-130 degrees celsius. That is a very high temperature and would require much energy, especially if this process is happening on a large scale. And this is simply the first part of a very lengthy process.
there are few parts of the palm oil production process that ae not harmul in some way. The severe impact on the population of orangutans in indonesia and malaysia is well-documented and tragic.
As far as the specific impact of bleaching goes, there are some who are trying to find purposes for it that allow the spent bleaching earth to be put to good use by binding chromium isotopes. Presumably, the effects on the enviroment are negative, as many people are looking for “eco-friendly” alternatives, such as neem leaves, to carry through the bleaching process of palm oil.
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