The Project

Operational Programme Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation 2014-2020 (EPAnEK)

Ministry of Economy and Development



Managing Authority for Research, Technological Development & Innovation Programs (EYDE-ETAK)

Research Project: “Development and implementation of novel biobased methods for the treatment of pesticide-contaminated wastewaters from agro-industries”


This project is co‐financed by the European Union and Greek national funds through the Operational Program Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, under the call RESEARCH – CREATE – INNOVATE (project code: Τ1EDK-02566)

Total Budget: 765.287,00 €

Public Expenditure Budget: 729.737,00 €


  • Laboratory of Wastewater Management and Treatment Technologies, Dept. of Environmental Engineering, DUTH
  • Laboratory of Plant and Environmental Biotechnology, Dept. of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, UTH

Coordinator: Associate Professor Spyridon Ntougias

Project description

Fruit-packaging industry constitutes one of the most dynamic sectors in agro-food industry in Greece and in Europe. Fungal infestations of fruits by Penicillium, Colletotrichum και Botrytis during storage constitutes the main problem of the fruit-packaging industry and often leads to serious degradation of the market value of fruits. Despite efforts for the development and implementation of non-chemical control methods, the application of fungicides still constitutes the main control method for fungal infestations in fruit-packaging plants. However this practice leads to the production of large wastewater volumes characterized by relative low total soluble solids (120 mg/L) and COD (20-500 mg/L), but high levels of fungicides like imazalil (IMZ), thiabendazole (TBZ), fludioxonil (FLX), iprodione (IPR) and orthophenylphenol (OPP), which are known to be toxic to aquatics, while some of them (IMZ, TBZ, FLX) are also particularly persistent in the environment.

Taking all the above into consideration, the European Commission (Regulation 1109/2009) granted authorization to these fungicides for postharvest uses only under the clause that the ”the wastewaters produced by their use they should be collected and treated on site before their environmental release”. Despite that no viable, economic and effective method for the treatment of these effluents have been developed and implemented at full scale level in Europe and beyond. As a result of this deficiency, fruit-packaging plants fruit-packaging plants are forced to follow handling practices, which are either costly (0,70-3.00 € per litre for the ex situ treatment of wastewaters by certified companies) or lead to undesirable environmental impacts (dispersal in soil sites or discharge in municipal wastewater treatment plants, which do not have the capacity to remove fungicides). Based on the demand of the European Commission and the lack of viable treatment methods, the proposed project aims to develop, test and implement a new technology for the biological treatment of the effluents produced by fruit-packaging plants. Considering the recalcitrance of some of the fungicides contained in those effluents, the biological process implemented will be based on bacterial strains, which have specialized catabolic activity for the specific fungicides and they have been isolated by partners in previous studies (TBZ, IPR, OPP) or they will be isolated in the frame of this project (IMZ, FLX).

This main goal will be achieve through a series of technological and research objectives like (a) the isolation and characterization of FLX- and IMZ-degrading bacteria, (b) the evaluation of the efficiency and the optimization of the biological processes in lab-scale bioreactors, (c) the determination of bacterial succession and of the microbial function during the biological process and investigation of the role of plasmids on the maintenance of the biological process and (d) based on all the above, the design, construction and implementation of a full-scale unit for the biological treatment of the agro-industrial effluents. The accomplishment of these aims is expected to lead to the development of a new wastewater treatment technology, which will be based on innovative biotechnological tools. The implementation of this technology will result in a substantial reduction in the environmental footprint of the fruit-packaging industry in Greece, making this agro-industrial sector more competitive in the global market and at the same time safeguarding the quality of natural resources of Greece.

The consortium of the project comprises two Universities (Democritus University of Thrace & University of Thessaly), which will provide the benchmarking research required to build on for the development of the full-scale wastewater treatment system. This will be constructed under the supervision of the Engineering company HYDROCHIMICA specialized on the development and construction of such treatment systems, and established in the premises of the fruit-packaging plant POULIS, which will be the end user of the technology developed and utilize the unit for the treatment of its effluents.

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