"Turning olive oil waste into euros while protecting nature": a feature on MEDOLICO

While the rush continues for "liquid gold", as ancient Greek epic poet Homer described olive oil, more and more tons of chemical waste water are being illegally dumped across the Mediterranean region. This includes Jordan, where MEDOLICO project is testing innovative technologies to reduce the environmental footprint of olive mills.

It’s no secret that the Mediterranean region accounts for the overwhelming majority of the world’s olive oil production, in fact 97% of it. What is less well-known, however, is that for the estimated two million tons of olive oil produced annually, some nine million tons of waste is generated. Given the potential environmental harm that this can cause, scientists across the region are putting their minds together under the MEDOLICO project to discover the perfect method of minimising the environmental impact of olive oil mill wastewater, creating bio-products for commercial use in the process.

"Wastewater used to be dumped on the field side. In the past, it worked. The soil was better and water was in abundance. But due to the growing scarcity of water resources, and the higher production rate, nature cannot absorb waste water anymore" says Professor Munir Rusan of the Jordan University of Science and Technology and representative of the 'Mediterranean Cooperation in the Treatment and Valorisation of Olive Mill Wastewater' (MEDOLICO) project.

MEDOLICO, funded under the first standard call, is a three-year initiative implemented in Cyprus, Italy, Jordan, and Israel and Portugal which aims to create practical and cost-efficient solutions to treating and managing olive mill waste water in the Mediterranean. The project seeks to use treated water as a source of irrigation, and hopes to compensate for the cost of olive mill wastewater treatment technologies through the development of a suitable quality and quantity of recovered by-products.

Jassem Mahmoud Abdullah, owner of one olive mill and active member of Jordan's Mills Owners Association, says he is excited about MEDOLICO project."The issue of olive oil wastewater is an environmental and financial headache. We cannot keep the water near the mill, as it is toxic and very dangerous. We have to get rid of it. But it costs a lot. If they find a system, it would be great to make any extra income during these difficult times” underlines Mr. Abdullah.

"Turning olive oil waste into euros while protecting nature" is the second feature prepared by the EU Neighbourhood Info Centre on a project funded under the ENPI CBC Med Programme, following that on ShMILE 2 entitled "Hotels are going green too".

The feature appeared in the Jordanian Al Ghad daily newspaper

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06.05.2013