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Reuse of Olive Mill Wastewater for producing new antioxidant tanning chemicals

Olive Mill Wastewater (OMW) is a highly polluted medium produced in large quantities during olive milling, rich of several polyphenolic compounds, which limit its biodegradability in conventional treatment processes. For olive oil producers OMW represents a problem and a disposal cost. Such polyphenols are interesting because of their tanning behavior and high antioxidant strength. The innovation proposed is to transform OMW from waste into a raw material with a specific treatment process, which promotes highly antioxidant phenols enrichment, and to use this raw material for producing a new class of antioxidant tanning chemicals be used in tanning and retanning processes for leather production.


The goal of TANNOW was to assess the feasibility for starting-up a business initiative, where OMW is collected and transformed into tannery chemicals used to produce innovative Cr-free leather articles, and to prevent the oxidation of Cr into carcinogenic Cr VI in Cr-tanned leather. TANNOW intended to answer to the needs of the olive oil producers in terms of valorization of OMW from a waste into a new raw material, and to the needs of the leather sector who intended to ban Cr-tanned articles by 2020, and in a shorter time to reduce the risk of CrVi formation, when Cr-tanning salts are used. The removal of Cr-based salts in tanning process have positive impacts on workers and consumers health and on downstream wastewater management. Such problems have certainly an EU dimension, because Europe is the main producer of olive oil and a world leader in leather production.


During TANNOW a critical review of the innovative features of the background was performed by means of the prior art analysis, which lead to confirm the freedom to operate and to produce two patent applications (for OMW treatment and OMW-derived product uses in tannery processes). Furthermore, it was proved the soundness of the proposed business models, confirmed the evidence of the actual market demand and attractiveness of the OMW-based products and defined a commercial strategy for product launch and the initial market & sales plan. The project finally lead to start-up a NewCO named TANNOW srl having the scope of selling OMW-based tannery chemicals.

“This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme SME INSTRUMENT Phase 1 under grant agreement No. 715071”.