According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, each year more than 18 million tonnes of cheese are produced worldwide, a process that generates around 180 million litres of whey.
Major cheese companies can recover the valuable nutritional properties of whey by implementing recovery processes, but small artisanal cheese factories, which represent a significant part of the industry, cannot afford this equipment and their whey ends up as waste that is hazardous if disposed in the environment.
To provide a response to this problem, AIMPLAS (the Plastics Technology Centre), ADM Biópolis, La Cabezuela, Dehesa Dos Hermanas, FEDACOVA (Agri-Food Business Federation of the Valencian Community) and the Universitat de València have implemented the GO Orleans Project to transform this by-product of cheese manufacturing into new value-added products.
Natural antimicrobial coatings will be developed for use in packaging to extend the shelf life of cheese by 25%-50%. New probiotic ingredients will also be added to livestock feeds to protect the digestive system and contribute to animal wellbeing.
Two Spanish cheese companies are also participating in the project, Dehesa Dos Hermanas, a sheep cheese factory in Huelva, and Quesos La Cabezuela, a goat cheese company in Madrid.
Project member ADM Biópolis provides its expertise in probiotic design and validation while the Universitat de València contributes its expertise on the study of antimicrobial activity. “We’ll first separate bacteria with biopreservation potential. Then we’ll characterize the compounds in the matrix, which is whey,” said Giuseppe Meca, professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Universitat de València.
“AIMPLAS is working on the formulation of a functional coating containing whey as an active component with antimicrobial properties. Application has therefore been planned on plastic film to obtain active packaging prototypes for cheese,” said Alicia Naderpour, a packaging researcher at AIMPLAS.
FEDACOVA will be responsible for transferring developments to companies in the agri-food industry. “FEDACOVA is participating in this project to transfer research findings to the Valencian agri-food industry, especially companies in the Association of Cheesemakers of the Valencian Community and individual members. This will help improve industry competitiveness, which will ultimately benefit society as a whole,” said Sergio Barona, General Secretary of FEDACOVA.
GO Orleans is a clear example of a circular economy initiative in line with SDG 9 on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, SDG 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production, and SDG 13 on Climate Action.