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SABRA Olive Oil: Let's take a look at the first oil mill to adopt the principles of the circular economy in Tunisia

At SwitchMed, we develop pilot demonstration projects on the circular economy in line with national sustainable consumption and production policies in the Southern region of the Mediterranean. Follow the story of SABRA Olive Oil, one of the first organic oil mills to use nearly all of the by-products of olive oil and implement the best rational management of its natural and energy resources in Tunisia.

Agronomist by passion and training, Faycel Bougerra owns a small paradise of 6 hectares in his hometown of Sbikha where he produces gold...yellow gold as it is often called, and rightly so since olive oil yields considerable income to both the State and to producers thanks to its exportation. The olive oil industry occupies a strategic place in the Tunisian economy. The country is the world's largest exporter, and the second largest producer after the European Union.

On more than 1,750 oil mills in Tunisia there are less than ten processing units of the by-products of the olive industry. During the harvesting season, most oil mills discharge their waste, Amurca, and pomace into nature without prior treatment. This contributes to the degradation of soils and rivers.

"Why get rid of a resource that can be reused to increase the profitability of the company, all while polluting less?!" Faycel Bougerra, CEO of SABRA Olive Oil

Sbikha, a few kilometers from Kairouan, is a region famous for the production of olive oil, as is the rest of the Sahel. Originating from this city, Faycel is well aware of these issues and is undertaking to revalorize these discharges.

Established in 2012, SABRA Olive Oil wants to improve its production system toward a cleaner model while increasing the value of by-products such as olive pomace, which can be transformed into combustion materials, fertilizers, and farm animal feed. The water extracted from the oil once filtered can provide molecules of interest for various uses, including cosmetics. In so doing, it would improve its business model by selling by-products and would increase control over the value chain and reduce negative environmental impacts.

Watch their video 


 

But SABRA Olive Oil doesn't intend on stopping there. In its broader vision, the company intends to implement the concept of circular economy through the efficient management of energy and water. The SwitchMed program supports the company to develop its business model based on sustainable consumption and production. A complete audit of the entire process, from tree to bottle, was developed in order to explore the possibilities of waste minimization, by-product revalorization, and efficient management of wastewater from the oil mill. A cost-benefit study of the proposed measures for the adaptation of the best circular economy model is in progress. 

The company intends to invest in facilities to achieve this model of sustainable consumption and production. SwitchMed will facilitate the search for financing to implement the changes decided in the factory.

 

Once the necessary installations are completed the company is expected to save more than 20% of its total water consumption, the equivalent to 93 cubic meters of water. These future facilities include a drainage system that will recover rainwater and runoff from the olive storage area. In addition, the installation of an evaporation basin will allow the production of 500 m3 of biofuel, which will either be reused or sold.

SwitchMed is also supporting the comapny in obtaining an eco-certification, and will also provide commercial and marketing support for selling its environmentally friendly olive oil and by-products. 

Given the enormous potential for replicability of this innovative initiative and its socio-economic and environmental impact in the region, SABRA Olive Oil has been selected as one of the most innovative pilot projects of the SwitchMed program funded by the European Commission, in accordance with the Ministry of the Environment of Tunisia and the delegation of the European Union in Tunisia. It contributes to the development of the national action plan for consumption and sustainable production in Tunisia, focusing on two priority sectors: food and tourism.

For more information, take a look at their company's website.

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