Compostable bioplastic from olive waste

Plastics technology company AIMPLAS has teamed with Spanish olive oil producer Olivarera de los Pedroches (OLIPE) to develop biodegradable and compostable packaging solutions from olive stone waste. The two-year GO-OLIVA project has created a plastic compound material from olive stones that can be processed by extrusion and injection molding into trays for bottles and caps for containers. The collaboration will now perform a behavioral study to validate the transformation processes before an environmental study will be carried out to determine the material’s compostability.

Spain is the world’s leading olive oil producer, generating considerable waste during the olive stoning process. This waste is typically incinerated for power generation. However, AIMPLAS and OLIPE have established the GO-OLIVA project to find a high value-added application for this waste by producing an environmentally-sustainable material for oil packaging.

The result is Oliplast, a reportedly biodegradable and compostable plastic compound material made with materials from renewable sources, namely, a filler or reinforcement from olive oil and a thermoplastic material. Oliplast can be processed by extrusion and injection molding to manufacture new products such as trays and plates to hold bottles, as well as caps for packaging containers for cosmetic creams made with olive oil.

The project is a glowing example of how environmental sustainability and financial profit can run parallel. “The achievements of the GO-OLIVA project will allow OLIPE to reach a market with greater added value such as plastic packaging, which will have repercussions on a greater economic return for OLIPE,” Bárbara Sancho Toboso of the AIMPLAS Marketing and Communication Department, tells PackagingInsights.

Work done to date has involved selecting raw materials and developing an olive stone that can be used to obtain the new material. The next step will be to perform a behavioral study so the material can be validated for transformation processes. Finally, an environmental study will be carried out to determine the material’s compostability.

The primary role of AIMPLAS is the development of the bioplastic compound, Toboso explains. “AIMPLAS has wide experience in incorporating fillers into plastic materials and, in recent years, has acquired a great deal of knowledge in biodegradable materials aimed especially at the packaging sector. Thus, the relationship between OLIPE, who has a deep knowledge of the characteristics of the olive and the processing to obtain oil, and AIMPLAS with its expertise in the formulation and industrial processing of plastic compounds, ensures that the objectives are achieved.” AIMPLAS will also participate in the environmental analysis of the material compound, Toboso adds.

The GO-OLIVA project has a total budget of €340,131.38 and has received a grant for €316,131.38, of which 80 percent is co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and 20 percent by the Spanish government.

Largely fuelled by anti-plastic sentiment and the desire to find more eco-friendly solutions to packaging disposal, biodegradable and compostable packaging is hitting the market in higher numbers and with increased sophistication. European Bioplastics (EUBP) forecasts “dynamic growth” in the global bioplastics industry, in which packaging remains the largest field of application with almost 53 percent of the total bioplastics market in 2019.

Back to news