Making the EU’s olives greener…for the environment

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Olives are not only a ‘superfood’ – they also create thousands of jobs in the Mediterranean region. But ironically, producing table olives or olive oil requires huge amounts of water – sometimes a scarcity in hot, dry southern Europe. An EU-funded project has developed a system to re-use the water used to wash olives – good news for both the environment and olive producers limited by low water levels.

The EU is the world’s largest olive producer, supplying an average of 2.2 million tones of olive oil every year. Spain, Italy and Greece account for around 97% of production, and the sector is dominated by small companies.

Producing 100 kilos of olives requires around 50 liters of water, which is currently discarded as wastewater. The ALGATEC II project has found a way to re-use the water used to wash olives, cutting the use of drinking water by 90% and removing the wastewater disposal problem.

“We really think this can work,” said project coordinator Antonia Lorenzo of Spanish SME BIOAZUL. “Growing global demand for olive oil is considerably increasing the use of water in countries where this resource in scarce and moreover, there is significant waste, especially wastewater.”

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