On one hand, whey constitutes a surplus material from dairy and cheese industries. During cheese production, it accrues in a ratio of approximately 9 tonnes of whey to 1 tonne of cheese. The quantities of whey produced nowadays, especially in the EU-27, surpass by far the food industry requirements. Hence, at the moment, whey constitutes a surplus material even causing severe disposal problems for dairy industry. In that sense, an even larger surplus exists and has to be treated as waste material.

On the other hand, consumer interest in biodegradable materials has grown as a consequence of increasing social awareness of the power to reduce environmental impacts by selecting more environmentally-friendly products. There is a global trend toward the development of sustainable packaging using biodegradable materials. While the market is still dominated for over 99% by petrol-based plastic, there is an emerging and growing market for bio-based plastic produced from renewable resources. Currently, PHB cost is between 2-3 times higher than polymeric materials. The major part, up to a half, of the entire PHB production costs is attributed to the cost of carbon substrates. The use of whey as raw material will allow reducing the PHB cost.

Whey can be used as feedstock for biopolymers production instead of a purpose-grown crop such as corn, sugar cane or soybean. This solution performs better from energy, greenhouse gas emission and ethical perspectives: agricultural inputs and activities are avoided, as are indirect consequences of using crops for producing bio-based materials, such as direct and indirect land use change, and also prevents the utilization of various renewable feedstocks that can be used for food. The use of whey surplus as feedstock for biopolymer production by microbial processes is a viable strategy for overcoming its problems related to waste and contribution to climate change. Besides, WHEYPACK will decrease the need for valuable raw materials which can be intended for food, with consequent better use of renewable resources from the ethical point of view.

WHEYPACK project is directly related with two of the most important manufacturing sectors in the EU from the point of view of turnover and employment: food and food packaging sectors. In that sense, the development of the project will have positive environmental and socio-economic effects all around the European Union. The WHEYPACK results of the project would be widely applicable and easily transferable to any European Member.

The results of this project will have a market replication in other kind of products manufactured by injection process, such us caps, cups, kitchen utilities and other consumer goods.

WHEYPACK PROJECT - Reduction of CO2 emissions by the PHB use obtained from whey: demonstration in dairy products packaging
Life project - LIFE13 ENV/ES/000608