MEWLIFE is a LIFE project aiming to demonstrate the environmental benefit and economic feasibility of an innovative approach to produce microalgal biomass in an integrated phototrophic – heterotrophic cultivation system using preconcentrated (in a membrane filtration plant) olive oil wastewaters as carbon source for growing algae, thus contributing to waste reuse and valorization.
Olive oil wastewaters
Europe produces about 70% of the global olive oil (Spain, Italy and Greece as main producers).
Wastewaters from olive oil production plants cannot be treated in conventional biological depuration plants due to the toxic effect of antioxidants (polyphenols) on active sludge. As results, these wastewaters are discharged in the environment acting as anti-microbial and phytotoxic agents.
The 3-years MEWLIFE project aims to overcome these hurdles with the development and validation on pilot scale of an integrated set of technologies for olive oil wastewaters remediation based on both physical and biological treatments.
Microalgae are a promising feedstock for the sustainable supply of commodities and specialties for food and non-food products. Despite this potential, implementation to date is limited, mainly due to unfavourable economics. Major bottleneck is the lack of available biomass at acceptable costs. In the MEWLIFE project a new integrated microalgal cultivation strategy has been developed, reducing costs associated with the cultivation system and using the anti-microbial activity and organic carbon content of olive oil wastewaters to enhance microalgal biomass growth.
Extraction of high-value added products
The microalgal biomass produced in the MEWLIFE project will be tested for application in nutraceutics (by extracting carotenoids: astaxantina and b-carotene) and for biopolymer production (by extracting starch and other carbohydrates and the lipid fraction).
Use of alternative wastewaters from the agri-food sector
The replicability of the developed process using other wastewaters (i.e whey in addition or in alternative to organic concentrates from vegetation waters) will be also addressed during project development.