Industrial recovery and utilization of the pomace and wastewaters from the regional olive oil production chain
The water waste resulting from the olive oil production (mill wastewater) is one of the major environmental problems in the countries with a developed olive oil sector, particularly those in the Mediterranean basin. The issue of its disposal remains high on the agendas of the Ministers of Agriculture in all of these countries, not just in Italy.
The widespread presence of oil mills and the impossibility to process the olive mill wastewater and pomace in traditional waste treatment plants, has led to a continuous assessment of possible solutions, none of which has proved satisfactory in resolving this regional and national problem.
The RECOVER project envisages the use of an innovative supercritical CO2 system for the treatment and valorisation of wastewaters and pomace generated by the olive oil industry. The purpose of this plant is to reduce the environmental hazard from these wastewaters and pomace and at the same time to recover substances of commercial interest for the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and nutraceutical industries.
The supercritical CO2 process allows a drastic reduction of COD and BOD values of these by-products of olive oil production and the recovery of the polyphenols present in them, which have a negative effect on agricultural land, but, on the other hand, have proven antioxidant properties when consumed regularly.
The proposed innovation will be both addressing a vital need for the entire olive oil sector, and at the same time satisfying the growing demand for pharmacologically active substances of plant origin that the industrial health and wellness sector is using with ever increasing success.
Furthermore, the growing interest of the agri-food sector for products classified as functional or nutraceutical foods perfectly matches the extraction capacity of the plant, capable of isolating polyphenols.
The plant is designed to operate without any solvent harmful to the environment or humans, since it uses supercritical CO2, thus avoiding any solvent contamination, allowing to extract molecules of biological interest from solid and liquid matrices, with extractive power equal to the best chemical solvents.