Send to

Choose Destination
Biotechnol Biofuels. 2014 Apr 24;7:67. doi: 10.1186/1754-6834-7-67. eCollection 2014.

Energetic and biochemical valorization of cork boiling wastewater by anaerobic digestion.

Author information

Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia, I.P., Estrada do Paço do Lumiar 22, Lisboa 1649-038, Portugal.
Istituto di Bioscienze e Biorisorse, CNR, Via Pietro Castellino 111, Napoli 80131, Italia.



In addition to energy benefits, anaerobic digestion offers other interesting advantages. The cork industry is of great environmental, economic and social significance in the western Mediterranean region, with Portugal being the world-leading producer and exporter. Cork boiling wastewater (CBW) is a toxic and recalcitrant organic effluent produced by this sector, which constitutes a serious environmental hazard. However, there is no documented research on anaerobic treatment/valorization performed with this effluent. The work presented here was developed with the aim to use the anaerobic digestion process to convert the CBW polluting organic load into an energy carrier gas and valuable molecules for industry.


No lag phases were observed and a methane yield of 0.126 to 0.142 m(3) kg(-1) chemical oxygen demand (COD)added was registered in the mesophilic consortium experiments carried out in batch flasks at 37 ± 1°C. Anaerobic digestion can be advantageously connected to ultrafiltration or electrochemical processes, due to the following: 1) reduction of ellagic acid content and consequent decrease of CBW viscosity; and 2) increase in conductivity after the anaerobic process, avoiding the electrolyte application of the electrochemical process. The improvement of several CBW biochemical features shows that anaerobic digestion may provide additionally useful molecules. The rise in concentration of some of these compounds, belonging to the benzoic acid family (gallic, protocatechuic, vanillic and syringic acids), is responsible for the increase of antiradical activity of the phenolic fraction. Additionally, some enzymatic activity was also observed and while the laccase activity increased in the digested effluent by anaerobiosis, xylanase was formed in the process.


The multidisciplinary approach adopted allowed the valorization of CBW in terms of energy and valuable biomolecules. By exploiting the anaerobic digestion process potential, a novel methodology to toxic and recalcitrant cork processing wastewater was developed.


Anaerobic digestion; Cork boiling wastewater; Enzymes; Methane; Phenols; Valuable biomolecules

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center