Food contact packaging: research on plastic packages made with surplus cheese production

Categories: Innovation and trends in bioplastics, Innovation and trends in plastic materials, Plastics for the packaging industry, Plastics in the food industry
Food waste packagingAbout 40% of whey is thrown away and managed as food industry waste

On average, the cheese making process generates 9 tonnes of whey for each ton of cheese. It is estimated that 75 million tonnes of cheese whey are annually produced in Europe. Despite reusing some of this by-product in the making of dairy products, about 40% of whey is thrown away and managed as food industry waste.

The aim of the LIFE+ WHEYPACK European Project is to prove that it is posible to produce a new packaging for dairy products using 100% biodegradable materials that would have a lower environmental impact and carbon footprint compared to traditional plastic packaging, which come from non-renewable resources such as oil. The new material which is trying to be used for packaging is surplus whey.

More specifically, the synthesized material for the manufacture of this new packaging will be polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), which will be the result of a process of microorganisms fermentation from whey. Innovation: Whey becomes the solution for making more sustainable plastic packages. This by-product becomes a food waste problem for the dairy industry’s companies due to the large surplus of generated whey.

Even companies that generate whey could make profit of this project as they would provide this by-product an added value turning it into a new material for cheese packages through a controlled bioproduction process. The new packaging would be environmentally sustainable, economically feasible and would fullfil, just like every dairy product, safety, sensory and service life functions, among others.

The European Union’s LIFE+ Programme supports the WHEYPACK project because of its environmental nature and will last for two years and a half. It is led by AINIA TECHNOLOGY CENTRE (Spain) with the participation of a multidisciplinary team with experience in food technology, bioprocesses, microbiology, chemical analyses, plastic packages and food packing systems. In particular, the company CENTRAL QUESERA MONTESINOS (Spain), the technological centre AIMPLAS (Spain) and the packaging company EMBALNOR (Portugal).

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