`'Oli-PHA' Project Develops Greener Packaging from Olive Mill Waste - Olive Oil Times

'Oli-PHA' Project Develops Greener Packaging from Olive Mill Waste

Jun. 26, 2012
Naomi Tupper

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The Oli-PHA project was launched in IRIS facil­i­ties, at Castelldefels, Barcelona, on June 11th and 12th, 2012

The launch of a new research project inves­ti­gat­ing the pro­duc­tion of bio-plas­tics from olive mill waste waters promises an envi­ron­men­tally friendly use for the 30 bil­lion litres of waste water gen­er­ated around the world each year.

The Oli-Pha project is the result of a amal­ga­ma­tion of indus­tries, research facil­i­ties and uni­ver­si­ties from major olive oil pro­duc­ing regions in Europe and Latin America.

Representatives from the olive pro­cess­ing, plas­tics, pack­ag­ing, food engi­neer­ing , and envi­ron­men­tal sec­tors have joined to real­ize the ven­ture, which was launched in the Parc Mediterrani de la Tecnologia de Castelldefels in Barcelona in mid June this year.

It is hoped that the project will address the chal­lenges faced by olive oil pro­duc­ers in haz­ardous waste water dis­posal, while pro­vid­ing an extra source of income through the gen­er­a­tion of bio-plas­tics.

The project is based on a holis­tic envi­ron­men­tal approach termed MaxiUse”, which aims to increase the sus­tain­abil­ity of mate­ri­als and processes.


The con­cept involves olive mill waste water being used as a cul­ture medium for the gen­er­a­tion of the sub­stance poly­hy­drox­yalka­noate (PHA), a type of bio-plas­tic. PHA is pro­duced by pho­to­syn­thetic bac­te­ria, known as cyanobac­te­ria, which is tra­di­tion­ally cul­tured on refined feed­stocks such as glu­cose in the pro­duc­tion of PHA.

The use of olive mill waste water as a cul­ture medium how­ever, presents a more sus­tain­able solu­tion which reduces envi­ron­men­tal impact and avoids com­pe­ti­tion with food sources. The process can also be opti­mized through genetic engi­neer­ing of cyanobac­te­ria and cre­at­ing bio reac­tors that sup­ply the ideal envi­ron­ment for the process.

Not only will the gen­er­a­tion of this mate­r­ial go some way in reliev­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties in waste water dis­posal faced by olive proces­sors, but it is also expected to have a ben­e­fi­cial out­come for the plas­tic and pack­ag­ing sec­tors, pro­vid­ing a cost effec­tive, biodegrad­able, renew­able prod­uct that can be used for food pack­ag­ing.

This greener alter­na­tive to plas­tics made from fos­sil-based poly­mers is hoped to be a viable option for ensur­ing a long term sup­ply of plas­tic prod­ucts and one that meets the grow­ing con­sumer demand for more sus­tain­able and envi­ron­men­tally friendly plas­tic alter­na­tives that offer the same qual­ity as fos­sil-based ver­sions such as rigid­ity and flex­i­bil­ity.

Research into the effects of other com­pounds found in the waste water, such as polyphe­nols, which are potent antiox­i­dants, will also be car­ried out. These bac­te­ria resis­tant sub­stances, which have pre­vi­ously cre­ated prob­lems in waste dis­posal as they can­not be bro­ken down by bac­te­ria used in nor­mal waste treat­ment, may in fact be ben­e­fi­cial when incor­po­rated into bio-pack­ag­ing, lead­ing to fea­tures such as extended shelf life of pack­aged goods in food and poten­tially other indus­tries such as cos­met­ics.

The Oli-Pha project is a three year ven­ture funded by EC’c Seventh Framework Programme.


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