Whey waste to be used for cheese packaging, livestock feed

Project GO Orleans launched to help circular economy

Whey waste is being used for cheese packaging to improve its shelf life. Photo: iStockphoto
Whey waste is being used for cheese packaging to improve its shelf life. Photo: iStockphoto

A new research project has been initiated to convert whey, a cheese by-product, into a packaging material that can help extend the shelf life of cheese as well to improve the quality of animal feed. 

The Aimplas – Plastics Technology Center, along with the agri-food business federation of the Valencian Community, La Cabezuella, and the University of Valencia in Spain, has launched the Go Orleans project to convert whey waste into quality products and boost the circular economy.

Whey will be used as a natural ingredient to form an antimicrobial coating to preserve cheese and is expected to increase its durability by 25% to 50%. The whey waste will also be used to provide probiotic ingredients to animal feed and help animal feed industries to improve livestock health. 

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, around 18 million tonnes of cheese are produced worldwide annually, generating 180 million liters of whey. Large cheese companies can recover the nutritional properties of whey through recovery processes. 

But small-scale cheese units, which form a large chunk of the industry, cannot afford expensive equipment and dispose of the whey waste, which is harmful to the environment. So the Go Orleans project was launched to resolve this problem and make better products from whey waste.

Aimplas to create functional packaging with whey waste

ADM Biopolis, a project member, provides its know-how in probiotic design and verification. The university is contributing to the study of antimicrobial activities.

Giuseppe Meca, preventive medicines professor at the university, said the bio-preservation potential would help separate the bacteria. Later, the compounds in the matrix will be characterized.

Aimplas is working on creating functional packaging with whey as a core component with antimicrobial properties.

Alicia Naderpour, a packaging researcher at Aimplas, said they had developed a new solution that produces plastic film packaging from whey to increase the shelf life of cheese.

Participating in the project, the Federation of Food Industries of the Region of Valencia (FEDACOVA) will help transfer the research studies to the Valencian agro-food industry, mainly to individual members and companies in the cheesemakers association of the Valencian community.

According to Sergio Barona, general secretary of FEDACOVA, their participation will help improve competitiveness in the industry. 

The Go-Orleans Project is an example of a circular economy initiative as stated in sustainable development goal (SDG) 12 on production and responsible consumption, SDG 9 on innovation, infrastructure, and industry, and SDG 13 on climate action. Two Spanish cheese-making companies are also participating in this project.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

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