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EC backed project aims to recover Spanish dairy whey for functional formulations

By Nathan Gray+

15-Jan-2013
Last updated the 15-Jan-2013 at 11:43 GMT

A new initiative backed by the European Commission will encourage cheese making dairies in Spain to better utilise whey from cheese production as a value added ingredient.

The initiative – known as VALORLACT – aims to prevent cheese producing dairies in the Basque region from treating whey as a waste material, where currently 25 million litres are discarded as waste every year.

In doing so, the project will protect environmental issues from the disposal of the waste and help small and medium sized dairy’s to build healthier profits by transforming the whey into ingredients for food and biofuel production.

Due to run until 2015, the VALORLACT initiative also represents “a new business opportunity for the cheese-making sector and for foodstuff production.”

The team behind the project noted that if the disposal of whey is not properly managed then it can easily become an environmental contaminant.

“That is why AZTI-Tecnalia experts, in collaboration with the other organisations involved, are going to design a plan of action which aims to recycle over 80% of the whey produced by cheese-making dairies in the Basque Country.”

The plant will use new technologies to transform whey into new, high-value, ingredients that are geared towards human and animal consumption. The project leaders added that they will focus in particular on helping small and medium-sized producers "for whom this will be an opportunity to diversify their offer and, consequently, to be more competitive.”

The project may also represent an opportunity for the food industry to access a low-cost, raw material that will also enhance the nutritional quality of the of food and beverage products.

“The project will include technical, economic and environmental feasibility studies, including lifecycle assessment, resulting in a detailed, assessed, demonstrated, validated and agreed procedure to valorise whey generated in the Basque Country.”

The project expects to contribute to improvements in the overall environmental performance of the dairy sector, said the project leaders, who added that the project aims to:

  • Put into operation a pilot whey treatment plant with a capacity of 250 litres/hr;
  • Build a pilot plant to extract biogas from lactose with a capacity of 1,500 litres/day;
  • Enable the collection and valorisation of more than 80% of whey generated in the area - equivalent to more than 18 million litres per year (18,000 tonnes per year) of whey;
  • Produce and validate 5 tonnes of animal feed and at least 100 kg (350 units) of food products;
  • Generate 6,400 m3 of biogas – offering a reduction of 56 000 kg of CO2-equivalent emissions;
  • Define and agree a system for ongoing revalorisation of whey in the Basque Country;
  • Define the conditions and technology necessary for implementation of the system in other regions.

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