AgriChemWhey: transforming dairy waste into new added-value products
Following the abolition of European milk quotas in 2015, farmers are now able to produce more dairy products. However, the by-products of milk processing - whey permeate (WP) and de-lactosed permeate (DLP) - are difficult to dispose of sustainably, posing a major issue for the dairy industry.
Taking up this challenge, the AgriChemWhey project brings together 11 partners from 5 EU countries with the aim of building a first-of-a-kind bio-refinery, capable of transforming over 25,000 tonnes of excess WP and DLP per annum into lactic acid. This lactic acid can in turn be used to make value-added bio-based products for growing global markets, including biodegradable plastics, bio-based fertiliser and other minerals.
This plastic could be used to package dairy products produced by farms, while the bio-based fertiliser could be used for mushroom cultivation. Such an approach is a zero-waste process, closing the loop and promoting the circular economy.
AgriChemWhey hopes to replicate its model across other European regions.
The expected outcomes of the AgriChemWhey project are as follows:
- less food waste and greater resource efficiency, with more products made from the same material
- possible reduction in EU lactic acid imports (80,000 tonnes per annum) and the potential to turn Europe into a net exporter of lactic acid
- industrial symbiosis (turning waste into raw materials) for the creation of new products and new value chains
- CO2 savings, from 18,000 tonnes CO2 eq/year up to 89,000 tonnes CO2 eq/year (based on 1 to 5 AgriChemWhey-like plants)
- providing inspiration to society and industry as an example of the European circular bioeconomy