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H2020

TANNOW Report Summary

Project ID: 715071

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TANNOW (Reuse of Olive Mill Wastewater for producing new antioxidant tanning chemicals)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Olive Mill Wastewater (OMW) is a highly polluted medium produced in large quantities during olive milling, rich of several polyphenolic compounds, which limit its biodegradability in conventional treatment processes. For olive oil producers OMW represents a problem and a disposal cost. Such polyphenols are interesting because of their tanning behavior and high antioxidant strength. The innovation proposed is to transform OMW from waste into a raw material with a specific treatment process, which promotes highly antioxidant phenols enrichment, and to use this raw material for producing a new class of antioxidant tanning chemicals be used in tanning and retanning processes for leather production.
The goal of TANNOW was to assess the feasibility for starting-up a business initiative, where OMW is collected and transformed into tannery chemicals used to produce innovative Cr-free leather articles, and to prevent the oxidation of Cr into carcinogenic Cr VI in Cr-tanned leather. TANNOW intended to answer to the needs of the olive oil producers in terms of valorization of OMW from a waste into a new raw material, and to the needs of the leather sector who intended to ban Cr-tanned articles by 2020, and in a shorter time to reduce the risk of CrVi formation, when Cr-tanning salts are used. The removal of Cr-based salts in tanning process have positive impacts on workers and consumers health and on downstream wastewater management. Such problems have certainly an EU dimension, because Europe is the main producer of olive oil and a world leader in leather production.
During the project a critical review of the innovative features of the background was performed by means of the prior art analysis, which lead to confirm the freedom to operate and to produce two patent applications (for OMW treatment and OMW-derived product uses in tannery processes). Furthermore, it was proved the soundness of the proposed business models, confirmed the evidence of the actual market demand and attractiveness of the OMW-based products and defined a commercial strategy for product launch and the initial market & sales plan. The project finally lead to start-up a NewCO named TANNOW srl having the scope of selling OMW-based tannery chemicals.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The present final report described the main activities carried out by the partners in TANNOW project, which lead to review and update the status of the initial business idea. All in all, the concept of the business idea remains unaltered based on the valorization of OMW from waste to raw material, for the production of a new class of OMW-based tannery chemicals with high tanning and antioxidant strength. Such chemicals will be used by tannery industries to produce Cr-free and CrVI-free leather articles. The specific objectives, declared in the proposal to produce the feasibility study were achieved:
(I) Create and consolidate the supply chain. Two different suppliers of OMW were selected, respectively an olive oil producer and a wastewater treatment plant, having a large availability of OMW to cover raw material demand for the expected OMW-based tannery chemicals productivity.
(II) Review the business model and related commercial exploitation plans. The initial business model was reviewed and split in two different models, respectively covering the OMW treatment exploited by one partner and the selling of OMW-based tannery chemicals exploited by the NewCo TANNOW srl owned by the three partners.
(III) Complete the market analysis. An extensive review of the market analysis was performed in the tannery chemical sector and for the main driver of this sector, which is the leather market, analyzing main trends, market and R&D drivers.
(IV) Complete market and commercial strategies to reassess the financial plan and define the products selling points. The partners decided to place on the market the antioxidant and tanning resins as first TANNOW s.r.l. product, because of the readily saleability in the main end-use market shares of leather as footwear, car interior, upholstery and clothing, defining price policy. In consideration of the commercial network of all the partners with pre-existing customers, the resin sales forecast has been updated.
In addition, during TANNOW project a review of the prior art related to the methods and processes for OMW treatment and the use of treated OMW and related tanning resins was carried out. The prior art analysis lead to conclude that both the background elements have the requirements for patentability and none of similar backgrounds limit the freedom to operate. As such, during TANNOW project two patent applications were submitted.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The European olive oil production represented 64% of the worldwide production. Traditional olive oil processing methods are estimated to produce 800-1000 litres OMW/ton of processed olives. At EU level the 2014/2015 season of olive oil production have given rise to at least 4.8 Mtons of OMW.
OMW is a complex mixture of water, low biodegragradable organic and inorganic substances. Olive oil mills’ polluting charges are significant with high levels of both BOD5 and COD and this represents a notably large organic matter load compared to standard municipal wastewater and anaerobic digestion of the waste, creating a problem for the wastewater treatment plant efficiency. Presently OMW is sent disposal as waste, representing a cost for olive oil producers, or used in land spreading having potential disadvantages as hazard to human and animal health due to pathogens, soil contamination from potentially toxic and persistent elements or organic compounds, pollution of water (surface and groundwater) and nuisance (odour, visual). None of these practices actually represents a suitable solution to solve the problem of OMW management.
With some 29% of the world's leather production, Europe stands out as the leading force in international business circles for leather and tanning. With a turnover of nearly 8 bn€ and a productivity of 189 Mm2, Europe's tanneries demonstrate their competitiveness on the global market. Nearly 80-85% of worldwide leather production is Cr III-tanned, meaning nearly 772 ktons of leather articles. Under certain production and storage conditions, Cr III can transform into carcinogenic Cr VI. Although on 26 March 2014 the EU published a regulation to ban Chromium VI in leather articles for sale if present in concentrations of 3 mg/kg or more, there are voluntary actions lead by the main environmental associations and large fashion groups who intend to find an ultimate solution to this problem: find an alternative and safer way to tan leather without chrome salts by 2020.
The soundness of the business initiative relies on the fact that Europe has a leading position for production of olive oil and leather, thus the availability of OMW shall cover the demand for leather tanning processes. Beyond the state of art, TANNOW proposed to reuse OMW as raw material for producing innovative antioxidant tanning chemicals, and Cr-free leather articles, thus absorbing 9-18% of OMW available in EU.

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