Saturday, September 6, 2014

Olive You Too

So I get a lot of eco-articles and posts in my life, naturally. Most of them I know, others surprise me a little. Just when I think I've thought about it, something comes up that makes me say, "Damn!" This was one of them.

Do you use olive oil? I use olive oil. It's my go-to for cooking. Except when the spice in question - like turmeric - calls for sauteing in a higher fat which means butter yum yum - it's always olive oil I reach for, grab, buy, have on hand. Imagine my surprise to learn that the manufacture of olive oil is not the most Earth-friendly thing out there.

From Currently, there are two processes that are used for the extraction of olive oil, the three-phase and the two-phase. Both systems generate large amounts of byproducts.  The two byproducts  produced by the three-phase system are a solid residue known as olive press cake (OPC) and large amounts of aqueous liquid known as olive-mill wastewater (OMW).  The three-phase process usually yields 20% olive oil, 30% OPC waste, and 50% OMW.  This equates to 80% more waste being produced than actual product.  

Who'd have thought? I didn't. By-product and waste from a natural product should be natural, right? Nope.

Regardless of system used, the effluents produced from olive oil production exhibit highly phytotoxic and antimicrobial properties, mainly due to phenols.  Phenols are a poisonous caustic crystalline compound.  These effluents unless disposed of properly can result in serious environmental damage.  Troublingly, there is no general policy for disposal of this waste in the olive oil producing nations around the world.  This results in inconsistent monitoring and non-uniform application of guidelines across these regions. 

I'm stymied.

I like olive oil because it's good ad yummy and generally found in glass bottles, not plastic. What's a witch to do? Stop using it? We can't stop using everything.

This is where I bring up a point that is so completely unpopular in pretty much all circles, even the environmental groups: population. There are just too many of us using too much stuff. I'm very eco-aware, yet things like this come up. Another one: Greek yogurt - yum - horrible for the environment. That I can avoid. I did anyway because of the stupid plastic cups it comes in. But olive oil? I don't use a lot. I won't stop. Sometimes, it's really just not me. It's all of us. The answer to problems like this isn't that we need to be better - which we do, we really really do - but that we need to STOP. We're cruising quickly and way too easily to 8 billion, and we just cannot handle that. We can't. Because of things like this. Because we use and use and we have nowhere to put the other stuff. This article talks about finding ways to deal with this waste-product. We keep looking for Band-aids and cures for the symptoms but we never address the disease.

Us. We are the disease. Let's address that.