VALORISATION OF OLIVE BY-PRODUCTS AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO BOOST THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

The agri-food sector’s need to design new plasticulture products from agricultural by-products is increasingly evident, as it is a viable alternative that contributes to the circular economy and the profitability of crops.

This goal defines the essential objective of the AGROVAL project, which will give a second life to fruit and vegetable waste, vegetable waste from the production of olive oil and agricultural films at the end of their useful life in the form of new sustainable plasticulture applications for the countryside. This research is led by the companies ‘La Unión’, ‘Castillo de Canena’, ‘Troe’, ‘Picda’, ‘Plásticos Ferrando’ and ‘Inserplasa’, with the support of AIMPLAS, ‘Fundación Cajamar’ and the Electron and Confocal Microscopy and Biological Specialities Support Unit of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

This project is framed within the line of funding for Research and Development Projects in Cooperation, subsidised by the CDTI, supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation and co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2021-2027.

In addition, the promoters of this alternative point out that AGROVAL is a project that is closely aligned with the circular economy and the bioeconomy, meeting the priority challenges for the European Union that are presented as a great opportunity for the agri-food sector in terms of the use of vegetable and fruit and vegetable waste and the recycling of agricultural plastics. In this sense, new products will be obtained by combining these by-products with each other and with conventional and biodegradable materials in the soil and under composting conditions, from the valorisation of these currently discarded agricultural by-products. Thus, the aim is that these new sustainable compounds can be processed by conventional plastic transformation technologies, such as pressing, extrusion and injection moulding, in order to manufacture products that will maintain and even improve the properties of existing ones.

In agriculture, an infinite number of by-products are discarded. Specifically, in this project, vegetable waste from the olive grove sector will be used to incorporate them into recycled material, including that obtained from agricultural film. These new compounds will be used to obtain boxes for transporting fruit and vegetables by means of injection technology, irrigation pipes by extrusion and wood-like strips. In addition, biodegradable matrices will be used to develop a biodegradable agricultural mulch film for soil and parts that will form part of the elements used in the transport of olive oils, with the peculiarity of having used their own vegetable waste. 

Finally, the products obtained will be functionalised with natural extracts from fruit and vegetable waste that will give them antifungal and/or antimicrobial properties. Furthermore, these products will represent a viable alternative in accordance with environmental legislation and their end-of-life management, including their interaction in the plant and animal ecosystem, will be validated and studied.

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