A laboratory experiment was conducted to evaluate the enzyme activities and chemical changes recorded in a recalcitrant phenolic-rich waste after treatment with Pleurotus ostreatus or Eisenia fetida. The waste used was wet olive cake (alperujo in Spanish), a waste produced in huge amounts by the olive oil industry. Both P. ostreatus and E. fetida were very effective in removing phenolic compounds, the initial concentration in the wet olive cake being reduced in both cases by around 90%. Laccase and manganese peroxidase activities were measured in the growth medium of P. ostreatus, and catechol 2,3 dioxygenase activity was only detected in the waste treated with Eisenia; these could be the main factors responsible for the oxidation of phenolic compounds. Increases of dehydrogenase and β-glucosidase activities were detected in the degraded wet olive cake by fungi or earthworms. In comparison with the natural wet olive cake, the degraded products had lower total organic carbon and humic acid contents but were rich in nitrogen and other nutrients, having lower C:N ratios. In addition, the toxicity of the wet olive cake against the seeds of Lepidium sativum significantly decreased after degradation. The low toxicity as well as moderate stability and maturity recorded in the wet olive cake treated with P. ostreatus or E. fetida imply that these products could be used as soil amendments.
Keywords: chemical changes - Eisenia fetida - enzyme activities - Pleurotus ostreatus - phenolic compounds - wet olive cake