Olive Oil Life Cycle Assessment

Project > Context

Olive oil production is an important agro-industrial sector in the Mediterranean region of Europe. The SUDOE space produces approximately 47% of the world’s olive oil. Thanks to its organoleptic characteristics and its health benefits, olive oil consumption in the European zone has increased by 50% during the last twenty years, reaching an estimated 1.85 million tons in 2009.


The intrinsic quality of olive oil and its complex production process result in higher production costs than for other conventional edible oils, being up to four times higher than the production costs for sunflower oil. While most vegetable oils come from oleaginous seeds, olive oil is obtained from a fruit; it therefore requires more time and care to produce, which may increase the inputs required demand. The quantity of olive oil extracted corresponds to approximately 20% of the olive’s weight. The residues, called grounds, are a mixture of stones, pulp and residual oil. Approximately 7.25 million tons of residues are generated yearly in the SUDOE space. The management of these residues remains a challenge because of their great quantity and their unavoidable production. Therefore, opportunities for waste management must be identified and brought forward by taking into account the available or emergent technology, which may result in both economic and environmental benefits.


OiLCA promotes sector competitiveness through environmental protection within the context of the energy crisis and the rising environmental awareness of consumers. Sustainable development cannot be achieved with a passive attitude; decisions must be made and a strategy must be developed to discern the right path. Olive oil production comprises a complex agro-industrial structure with various activities, including culture, extraction, refining and bottling. Each activity has environmental interactions and leaves a carbon footprint. These environmental impacts raise technical, economical and corporate image questions, but they also create opportunities to strive for environmental and business excellence. However, the choice of the best waste management systems and the evaluation of carbon footprints remain technically complex.

SUDOE space

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OiLCA 2011