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Rock Band Occupies Palm Oil Tanks With Activists Protesting Deforestation

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Environmentalists paint "DIRTY" onto a silo at an Indonesia palm oil plant. Jurnasyanto Sukarno / Greenpeace

Thirty activists, including members of Greenpeace and the Indonesian rock band Boomerang, occupied a palm oil refinery owned by Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil trader, on Tuesday to protest deforestation in Indonesia.

The environmentalists abseiled down silos and unfurled a banner that read "Drop Dirty Palm Oil Now" and painted the word "DIRTY" onto another tank.


Boomerang also performed a number of pro-environment songs on top of a tank, Agence France-Presse reported. The protest ended after 12 hours.

The refinery, located the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, processes palm oil from major producers that are destroying rainforests in Kalimantan and Papua, Indonesia, according to Greenpeace.

"Wilmar has been promising to clean up its supply chain since 2013. Yet it is still buying palm oil from forest destroyers. It is not Greenpeace's responsibility to police their supply chain. Wilmar should only buy palm oil from producers it can prove are clean. That is what Wilmar CEO Kuok Khoon Hong promised almost five ago," Kiki Taufik, head of Greenpeace's global Indonesia forests campaign stated in a press release.

Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of palm oil. The widely used commodity is found in a vast number of consumer goods, including chocolate, baked goods, soaps, detergents and more.

However, clearing tropical forests for palm oil plantations is a major threat to iconic and endangered wildlife, including Sumatran tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos, as well as the communities of people that depend on the forests to survive. Deforestation and peatland destruction is also a leading contributor to climate change in Indonesia.

Last week, Indonesian president Joko Widodo signed a three-year moratorium on all new palm oil plantation development in the country.

Activists occupy a palm oil refinery belonging to Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil trader and supplier to major brands including Colgate, Mondelez, Nestlé and Unilever.Nugroho Adi Putera / Greenpeace

Singapore-based Wilmar International, which supplies palm oil to major brands including Colgate, Mondelez, Nestlé and Unilever, described Greenpeace's action as a "criminal act of trespassing and vandalism" as well as a safety risk to the activists as well as Wilmar staff, according to a statement posted on its website on Tuesday.

"No organization is above the law, and we urge Greenpeace to adopt a collaborative mindset and work with the palm oil industry to take genuine and positive action," the statement reads.

"We are disappointed with the allegations made by Greenpeace that discredits the genuine efforts and progress made by Wilmar and the palm industry to promote the sustainable development of palm oil."

The palm oil giant added that it is monitoring its supply chain and has suspended more than a dozen suppliers for failing to fulfill sustainability requirements.

Greenpeace activists hung a banner reading "Drop Dirty Palm Oil Now" and painted "DIRTY" onto silos.Nugroho Adi Putera / Greenpeace

A recent Greenpeace International investigation reported that 25 palm oil producers had cleared 130,000 hectares—or almost twice the size of Singapore—of rainforest since 2015, and Wilmar was buying from 18 of those palm oil groups. Three of these groups supplied the refinery where Tuesday's protest took place, Greenpeace said.

"This refinery is loaded with Wilmar's dirty palm oil and if we weren't here it would be on its way to factories and supermarkets all over the world. Hundreds of thousands of consumers from all over the world have had enough of forest destruction," said Yeb Sano, executive director at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, speaking from one of the activist boats at the palm oil refinery, in the press release. "The message to big brands like Unilever, Nestlé and Mondelez is simple: cut Wilmar off until it can prove its palm oil is clean."

The activists are calling on Wilmar to prove it no longer sources palm oil from "forest destroyers," and to "require all producer groups in its supply chain to publish mill location data and concession maps for their entire operations and to cut off any that refuse."

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