Scientists at the University of Valencia in Spain have launched a new project which aims to turn whey waste, a residue in the production of cheese, into a packaging material that can extend shelf life of cheese by 25% and 50%.

Go Orleans is a project that will convert whey into coatings that extend the life of cheese by between 25% and 50% and into a probiotic ingredient for feed. In this way, this by-product will be used, contributing to generate a circular economy.

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), more than 18 million tons of cheese are produced annually worldwide, which involves the generation of about 180 million liters of whey. Only large cheese companies can take advantage of this substance’s valuable nutritional properties by implementing recovery processes.

Still, in the case of small artisan dairies, which represent a large part of this industry, it is impossible to carry out this type of investment, and whey waste is also dangerous if released into the environment.

To respond to this problem, Aimplas (Plastic Technological Institute), ADM Biopolis, La Cabezuela, Dehesa Dos Hermanas, Fedacova (Agrifood Business Federation of the Valencian Community), and the University of Valencia, Spain have launched the GO Orleans project to transform this by-product of the cheese industry into new products with high added value.

Specifically, natural antimicrobial coatings will be developed that, incorporated into the packaging, allow to extend shelf life of cheese by between 25% and 50%. In addition, they will be incorporated as new probiotic ingredients in the feed that will be fed to cattle to protect their digestive system and contribute to animal welfare.

To do this, the project has the participation of two cheese companies, Dehesa Dos Hermanas, a Huelva sheep cheese dairy, and Quesos La Cabezuela, a Madrid cheese company that produces goat cheese.

ADM Biopolis contributes to the project with its experience in designing and validating probiotics. In contrast, the University of Valencia will contribute with its experience in the study of antimicrobial activity: “We are going to isolate bacteria with bio-conservation potential. Then we are going to proceed to the characterization of the compounds in the matrix that is our whey”, explains Giuseppe Meca, University Professor of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Valencia.

“Aimplas is working on the formulation of a functional coating incorporating whey as an active component that will provide antimicrobial capacity. For this, its application on a plastic film has been planned in such a way that it allows to obtain prototypes of active containers for cheese, “says the Packaging researcher at Aimplas, Alicia Naderpour. For its part, Fedacova will be in charge of transferring the developments to companies in the agri-food sector.

GO Orleans is a clear example of a circular economy and is aligned with SDG 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, and SDG 13 Climate Action.

Photo: cheese-making-process by Freepik