Researchers create bioplastic ‘Wheypack’ from cheese waste

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

AINIA heads up a project to create bioplastic from surplus cheese whey.
AINIA heads up a project to create bioplastic from surplus cheese whey.

Related tags Milk European union

Researchers led by AINIA technology center in Spain, have created a bioplastic ‘Wheypack’ from surplus cheese whey.

The bioplastic, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is created following a fermentation bioprocess of whey, a by-product from the cheese industry.

European Commission’s Circular Economy

The research is part of the European Commission’s Circular Life Wheypack project in response to concerns in the dairy industry about what to do with whey surplus from cheese.

In Europe, 75m tons of whey is produced every year from cheesemaking and around 40% of that is disposed of and managed as waste.

The PHB obtained from the whey surplus of cheese manufacturer, Central Quesera Montesinos, in Spain, could replace traditional plastics in the packaging of its own dairy products.

Miguel Alborch, project coordinator, AINIA, told DairyReporter, most commercial plastics are synthetic polymers derived from petrochemicals, and are difficult to biodegrade. PHB is biodegradable, from renewable sources (bio-based) and represents a significant step towards achieving more sustainable packaging.

He said to develop the bioplastic the team had to identify and characterize the types of whey coming from the production processes of the different varieties of cheeses of Central Quesera Montesinos.

They then selected the ones with the best aptitudes to carry out the fermentative bioprocess.

The Life Wheypack project shows the dairy industry can make a profit by production of PHB biodegradable packaging tailored to the needs of their products​,” he said.

AINIA’s partners include Central Quesera Montesinos, Aimplas (Spain) and Embalnor (Portugal), who all have experience in food technologies and production, bioprocess technologies, polymer technology and food packaging manufacturing​.

Embalnor is designing and developing the final package with this bioplastic material. The PHB packages will have the same features of traditional petroleum-based plastic packages, but with a smaller carbon footprint​.”

Project title: ​Reduction of CO2 emissions by the PHB use obtained from whey: demonstration in dairy products packaging
Project policy area:​ Climate change
Programme: Life programme​ - LIFE13 ENV/ES/000608 -
Project coordinator:​ AINIA (Spain), Miguel Alborch project coordinator
Partners​: AINIA, Aimplas, Embalnor and Central Quesera Montesinos
Duration:​ 01/06/2014-30/11/2016
Budget:​ €1,188,777

Acies Bio Whey2Value technology

In other news, Acies Bio in Slovenia, has received a €1.7m ($1.9m) grant from the EU Horizon 2020 SME INST program for its Whey2Value (W2V) technology.

Horizon 2020 funds SMEs to develop groundbreaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes that are ready to face global market competition.

The money will go towards setting up a prototype processing plant to launch production of organic vitamin B12. W2V will utilize waste whey as a primary ingredient for microbial fermentation to produce the vitamin for the animal feed additives industry.

The innovation W2V is a perfect example of how the Circular Economy should work​,” a spokesman said.

The Whey2Value technology requires a low-cost processing facility, which can be installed on site, and minimal maintenance costs​.

It represents a unique opportunity to create a huge and disruptive impact on dairy industry, particularly for the competitiveness of small and medium sized European dairy companies, generating high-value products from waste material, and at the same time creating a sustainable solution with a greatly reduced burden to the environment​.

The objective of this project proposal is to prepare a thorough business plan and feasibility study in the scope of Phase 1, followed by scaling-up and demonstration of operational technology in industrial setting with a local dairy company in the scope of Phase 2​.

The technology is ready for industrial demonstration, which will be followed by EU and global commercialization of Whey2Value. We expect a rapid worldwide market adoption of this disruptive eco-biotechnology​.”

Project Acronym: WHEY2VALUE

EU Contribution: 1.781.938

Project duration: 01/11/2015 to 31/10/2017

Call ID: H2020-SMEINST-2-2015

Beneficiary: ACIES BIO

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1 comment

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