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Cheese Waste Turned into Plastic

Researchers in Catalonia, Spain, have invented a process that turns cheese waste into recyclable plastic food packaging.

This new plastic is made using whey protein – a by-product formed in the production of cheese – and is biodegradable.

About seven percent of whey is protein-rich dry matter that can be used to manufacture the new plastic or “whey layer,” according to Elodie Bugnicourt of Barcelona-based research institute IRIS.

The whey collected from cheese-making is filtered and spray-dried to extract the pure whey protein. This is then used in several thin layers to create plastic film for food packaging, which is both air-tight and water-resistant. With the help of enzymes, the product dissolves easily in water, according to the European Commission.

The European Union-funded project was aiming to find new uses for the 50 million tons of whey produced by European cheese factories each year. According to the commission, some of it is reused, as protein additives in such things as body-building supplements, but almost 40 percent of it is discarded.

It is hoped this new technology can be implemented on an industrial scale over the next two years, to produce biodegradable plastic film, other forms of food packaging and food trays.

Picture credit: Missbossy

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