Cheese is whey to go for bioplastic design
A bioplastic made from cheese by-products is expected to be appearing in consumer product packaging within a year, according to Dr Elodie Bugnicourt of Barcelona-based research company IRIS.
The biodegradable plastic made using whey protein is the result of the three-year European Commission-funded WheyLayer project, which Bugnicourt has spearheaded. Its aim was to replace expensive synthetic oxygen-barrier polymers with whey protein-coated plastic films.
Whey, the milk protein by-product of cheese production, acts as a good moisture-barrier film, and is a sustainable by-product: each year, cheese factories in Europe discard almost 40% of the whey they produce, she noted.
The WheyLayer packaging would not only create a value-added commercial use of currently discarded whey protein but would also replace petroleum-based plastics natural by-products, meeting growing environmental concerns and reducing carbon emissions, said Bugnicourt
“WheyLayer is very timely – it’s a development that’s coming up at a time where sustainability is the number one factor for success in new packaging innovation,” she said.
While the technology is subject to patent applications, Bugnicourt predicts that WheyLayer will first be used for cosmetics packaging for “creams that need good oxygen barriers, for example”. Food packaging applications will follow.