Olive stones can be turned into bioethanol, a renewable fuel that can be produced from plant matter and used as an alternative to petrol or diesel, scientists have discovered. The development gives the olive processing industry an opportunity to make valuable use of the four million tons of waste in olive stones it generates every year and sets a precedent for the recycling of waste products as fuels.
Researchers from the Universities of Jaén and Granada in Spain developed the process which they published in the Society of Chemical Industry’s (SCI) Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology. “The low cost of transporting and transforming olives stones make them attractive for biofuels,” said researcher Sebastián Sánchez.
Bioethanol is increasingly used in cars, but its production from food crops such as corn is controversial because it uses valuable land resources and threatens food security.
The olive stone, produced in processing of olive oil and table olives, makes up around a quarter of the total fruit. It is rich in polysaccharides that can be broken down into sugar and then fermented to produce ethanol.”This research raises the possibility of using of olive stones, which would otherwise be wasted, in producing energy. In this way we can make use of the whole food crop,” said Mr Sánchez.
Source: Weekly Telegraph, 2008-10-30.