Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

Packaging materials from olive mill waste waters

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Packaging materials from olive mill waste waters
An EU-funded project aims to improve resource efficiency in the olive oil processing sector by developing novel bioplastics from olive mill wastewater
In Development – The research project runs from June 2012 to July 2015, although some results will be disseminated before the end date.

Resource efficiency (e.g. filling line efficiency)

Product Categories
Drinks, Food

Relevant Materials
Not Applicable

Relevant Packaging Formats
Not Applicable

Supply Chain Phase


OLI-PHA is a 3 year R&D Project funded by EC´s Seventh Framework Programme. The project consortium is composed of 10 SMEs and 3 research centres from 5 European Member States and 3 South American countries. The project deals with the development of a novel and efficient method for the production of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHB) polymer-based packaging from olive oil waste water.

The use of more sustainable materials in packaging is a key demand from the consumers while also a need for the producer in order to comply with waste reduction legislations. However, various factors generally limit the uptake of biopolymers such as processing difficulties, incompatibility at the natural fillers-polymeric matrices interface, poor mechanical properties, possible toxicity due to natural material degradation, moisture sensitivity, high raw material cost, etc. In contrast, among biogenic polyesters, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) have sufficient functional properties to replace some of the 250 MTs of plastics used worldwide today, especially in the packaging sector. Indeed these bio-polyesters maintain comparable performance with conventional fossil-based polymers, while keeping high biodegradability and versatility of derived formulations for a range of applications. The greatest challenge is in producing more cost effective and even more sustainable PHAs.
The olive oil industry faces the issue of generating large amounts of polluting wastewaters for which no fully satisfactory economical and effective treatment process exists to date. Recent research has discovered that PHA polymers are naturally produced by some bacteria that can be grown in these wastewaters. However, these results have not yet been transferred to industry. In the OLI-PHA project, olive oil wastewater will be recovered and reused to obtain PHA biopolymers for use as advanced packaging materials. A full valorisation of the waste materials will be obtained by using the leftover biomass (from biopolymer production) for biogas production and also by the extraction of antioxidants and natural fillers from the olive mill effluents to produce active packaging and polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)-based composites.
The content in this entry has been obtained from publicly available information sources only (e.g. press releases, website and trade press articles) and is subject to completion of a validation process with the technology supplier.

Potential Benefits

The project aims to solve the challenges related with the disposal of olive mill wastewater for olive oil producers and provide them a new source of income. It will also seek to provide a new offering of both cost effective and high performance biodegradable packaging solutions with low environmental impact and high performance and functionality to extend the shelf life of the packed goods.

Intellectual Property

The project is funded by the European Commission so key findings will be disseminated widely, but it is likely that any specific technology breakthroughs will be subject to patent applications and appropriate intellectual property protection agreements between the project research partners.

Consultant View

Although this particular project focuses on the waste water arising from olive mill operations, it demonstrates that significant opportunities exist to turn food production waste streams into useful by-products. All food and beverage manufacturers should be encouraged by this research to look at their own waste streams and to seek opportunities to recover value from these.

Contacts and Further Information

Project Co-ordinator:
DrIng Elodie Bugincourt
Innovació i Recerca Industrial i Sostenible (IRIS)
Tel: +34 93 557 01 10 
Project website:

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