Assessment of the Life Cycle Environmental Impact of the Olive Oil Extraction Solid Wastes in the European Union

Angela Cossu, Stefania Degl’Innocenti, Monica Agnolucci*, Caterina Cristani, Stefano Bedini, Marco Nuti
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (DAFE), University of Pisa, Via del Borghetto 80, 56124 Pisa, Italy.

© 2013 Cossu et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (DAFE), University of Pisa, Via del Borghetto 80, 56124 Pisa, Italy; Tel: +39 050 2216647; E-mail:


There is an increasing interest in developing sustainable systems in the European Union (EU) to recover and upgrade the solid wastes of the olive oil extraction process, i.e. wet husk. A Life Cycle Environmental Impact Assessment (LCIA) of wet husk has been carried out aiming at facilitating an appropriate Life Cycle Management of this biomass. Three scenarios have been considered, i.e. combustion for domestic heat, generation of electric power, and composting. The Environmental Product Declaration and the ReCiPe method were used for Life Cycle Impact Assessment. Domestic heating and power generation were the most important impact factors in damaging human health, ecosystems, and natural resources depletion. Composting was 2-4 orders of magnitude less impacting than domestic heat and power generation. Considering human health, the impact of climate change, human toxicity and particulate matter formation represented the main impact categories. Considering ecosystems, climate change and natural land transformation were the main impact categories. Within natural resources, fossil fuel depletion was impacted three orders more than metal depletion. Within domestic heating and power generation scenarios, storage of wet husk along with the extraction by organic solvent, and the waste treatment were the most impacting phases for global warming potential, ozone layer depletion, acidification and non renewable fossil resources depletion. The results obtained for the waste disposal have been comparatively assessed with respect to the environmental impact of the olive oil production chain.

Keywords: Life cycle management (LCM), life cycle assessment (LCA), life cycle impact assessment (LCIA), olive oil extraction wastes, wet husks, domestic heating, power generation, wet husks composting.