Olive milling produces huge amounts of wastewater (OMWW) characterized by an extremely high organic load. Its polyphenols content is a hindrance to conventional biological treatment and to using it as growing medium for common microbial biomasses. The practice to dump it on soil is in conflict with the latest EU directives about waste management.
OMWW can be effectively and efficiently treated by means of membrane technology to a fraction of the initial volume, but membrane processing concentrates still require treatment. Reversing the overall cost balance of membrane processing and subsequent treatment requires valorizing the concentrates through their reuse, as well as ensuring long-term service of the membrane system through effective wastewater pretreatment and sustainable, fouling-controlling, membrane operation conduite.
Aim of this work is to reuse and valorize the ultra- and nanofiltration membrane concentrates as media for biomass production of microalgae and cyanobacteria. Scenedesmus dimorphus and Arthrospira platensis, usable as a food, feed, nutraceutical component or feedstock for biofuels, were selected for this investigation. Microalgal growth was experimentally determined and related to the composition of the concentrate-based media and to the irradiance distribution within the photobioreactor volume to decouple light limitation and medium chemical composition effects.