Africa / Middle East

Environmentally Friendly Bioplastics Created From Olive Seeds

The idea to create olive-based plastics was sparked when Duygu Yilmaz decided to research whether her father's habit of eating olive seeds was detrimental to his health.

Photo courtesy of Biolive
Feb. 27, 2019
By Julie Al-Zoubi
Photo courtesy of Biolive

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Young entre­pre­neurs in Istanbul have come up with a way to turn olive seeds into envi­ron­men­tally friendly bio­plas­tics.

Their mis­sion is to fill a gap in the bio­plas­tics indus­try by recy­cling waste prod­ucts from olive oil pro­duc­tion into a green alter­na­tive to petro­leum derived plas­tics.

The plas­tic gran­ules we pro­duce can be used in indus­try, in pack­ag­ing (and) in toys.- Duygu Yilmaz, co-foud­ner and CFO of Biolive

The idea was sparked when co-founder and CFO, Duygu Yilmaz, became con­cerned about her father’s habit of eating olive seeds. She decided to carry out some research to deter­mine if the olive pips were detri­men­tal to his health.

During her research Yilmaz dis­cov­ered sim­i­lar­i­ties in the chem­i­cal make up of olive stones and plas­tics. This dis­cov­ery led her to team up with two other young Turks, Ahmet Fatih Ayas and Mehmet Emin Öz and launch Biolive in 2016.

See more: Olive Oil and the Environment

Biolive began trans­form­ing the cel­lu­losic agent sourced from olive pits, which are dis­carded during the olive oil pro­duc­tion process, into biodegrad­able plas­tic prod­ucts. These leave a much smaller carbon foot­print and offer a sus­tain­able sub­sti­tute for plas­tic pack­ag­ing.

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“The plas­tic gran­ules we pro­duce can be used in indus­try, in pack­ag­ing [and] in toys,” Yilmaz told Energy News Live. “We will estab­lish a pro­duc­tion plant and sell to indus­try regard­ing to indus­try demands.”

The trio claim they can trans­form five tons of olive seeds into 3.5 tons of bio­plas­tic which decom­poses within one year and is absorbed into the earth as fer­til­izer. This would be a stark con­trast to the envi­ron­men­tally dam­ag­ing, oil-derived plas­tics that pro­duce high levels of carbon emis­sions and take around 450 years to decom­pose.

In 2018, Biolive won the advanced mate­ri­als cat­e­gory for waste ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion in the Cleantech National Accelerator Global Ideas Competition. This fol­lowed fund­ing by Vestel Ventures in 2017, which enabled Biolive to begin design­ing, devel­op­ing and pro­duc­ing bio-based plas­tics and gran­ules.

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Yilmaz who is pas­sion­ate about inspir­ing other young women in Turkey and cre­at­ing jobs has been rec­og­nized for her olive pip inno­va­tion and in 2017 was named as Turkey’s “Promising Woman Entrepreneur.”

Turkey has been slow to address the damage caused by dis­carded plas­tics and was ranked poorly for envi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance by Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

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Around 30 to 35 bil­lion plas­tic bags were used annu­ally and only this year, Turkish super­mar­kets have been banned from giving out plas­tic bags. The aver­age Turkish con­sumer was using around 440 per year com­pared to the 15 to 25 aver­aged by European con­sumers.

This is not the first time olive seeds have ousted petro­leum derived plas­tics. Back In 2017 a British com­pany devel­oped micro-beads from olive pomace and went on to create an envi­ron­men­tally friendly hand wash made from ground olive ker­nels instead of ocean-destroy­ing plas­tic micro-beads.

“We man­u­fac­ture olive-based micro-beads to order, pri­mar­ily for the cos­met­ics indus­try, and we have an agree­ment with a Norwegian part­ner to take these into the cos­met­ics market,” co-founder Steve Taylor told Olive Oil Times, “We have seen increased inter­est as the removal of plas­tic-based beads gath­ers pace.”