A new plastic – made from cheese

photo by Steve SnodgrassEvery industry faces the same problem when it comes to waste material. Traditionally these leftovers have ended up filling our landfills. But the tide on this has been steadily turning, with companies implementing sustainability initiatives and green practices.

A small group of companies in Spain’s Catalonia region partnered to come up with a solution to the waste problem in the cheese industry and discover ways to reuse the by-product.

In a project funded by the European Union, researchers created a process that turns whey, the waste by-product of cheese, into recyclable plastic food packaging. The whey is collected, filtered and spray dried to extract the pure whey protein, which is then layered to create the air-tight, water-resistant and biodegradable plastic film.

Millions of tons of whey produced from making cheese end up in landfills in Europe

According to the European Commission, the project plans to find new uses for the 50 million tons of whey that are produced annually by European cheese factories. Currently almost 40 percent of it is wasted.

It’s hoped this new technology can be implemented on an industrial scale over the next several years to produce biodegradable plastic film, other forms of food packaging and food trays. The use of this technology will decrease the need for transportation, allowing fleets to spend more time in their garages or corporate yards, further decreasing a company’s fuel costs. This is a development that we here in the U.S. should keep an eye on.

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