Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Cleaner Controlled And Cost-Efficient Olive Oil Production


95 % of the world's olive oil is produced in the Mediterranean area. For hundreds of years "alpechin", the olive oil mill wastewater, has been discharged into rivers and on to land, although alpechin contains a high quantity of toxic organic and inorganic components, including phenol derivatives. Since legislation has prohibited uncontrolled discharge, most of the alpechin is stored and left to degrade naturally and evaporate in man made pools today, still representing an enormous land based environmental hazard. Alpechin generated in the Mediterranean area is approaching 10 million m3 yearly, consuming oxygen for degradation equivalent to the total waste production of approximately 20 million people.

The objective of the proposal COOP is to make this important sector of commerce of Mediterranean countries a clean, cost efficient, and environmentally friendly industry.
An industrially founded 2 1/2 year project of 26 person years is proposed. In this project, innovative biodegradation plants for microbiotic decomposition of alpechin as an integral part of the olive oil production process will be developed. Optimal and most cost efficient pre treatment procedures will be applied and the potential valorisation of by products will be examined. Specific new bioreactor hardware design and sophisticated process development in lab scale experiments are the core of the project. Obtained results will then be up scaled and transferred on site for user testing in order to provide a solid basis for widespread application in the olive oil producing countries.

Through successful development of the proposed cleaner technologies, great environmental and cost benefits can be expected, since the controlled biodegradation will not only reduce the potential hazard of alpechin by more than 95% for the first time, but will also eliminate the potentially dangerous evaporation pools. Moreover, industrially valuable compounds will be obtained which will be usable for e.g. bioplastics, thus opening opportunities for industrial use of alpechin. The remaining non hazardous solid matter will be suitable for utilitsation as feed stuff and/or fertiliser and the remaining harmless liquids easily discharged.

The consortium comprises an optimal composition of Mediterranean users, namely olive oil producers and milling companies;
biodegradation technologists and bioprocessing chemists; hardware developers and manufacturers; and alpechin research specialists. The scientific co ordinator, a university, has a traditional long standing experience in the olive oil characterisation and chemical treatment alpechin. Furthermore, he possesses excellent links to numerous small oii mills and oil producing co operatives. The project co ordinator is an experienced biodegradation plant producing company; the
exploitation manager will be the equipment manufacturer who is already serving the olive oil industry. The industrial users involved will be responsible for dissemination of the project achievements and for the desired penetration of cleaner, controlled, and cost efficient alpechin degradation in the whole Mediterranean area. The project will be supported and advised by a well selected peer group.

Call for proposal

Data not available


EU contribution
No data

See on map

Total cost
No data

Participants (4)