April 8, 2004, just-food.com:
Manufacturers may soon have more options for sustainable packaging
as research is under way to develop a biodegradable plastic. The
European Union-founded consortium is developing an industrial system
for producing the eco-friendly plastic from whey separated from
milk curd during cheese-making.
Every year Europe produces 50 million tonnes (55m US tons) of whey;
thirty percent of this is currently being discarded. The WHEYPOL
project would utilize this waste product to create a plastic that
would eventually decompose in the soil, yielding only carbon dioxide
To make the plastic the polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) generated
in the cheese-making process would be synthesized from whey into
plastic. These are biodegradable polyesters that WHEYPOL says could
replace conventional packaging plastics. Techniques being investigated
include melt blow extrusion and injection molding for conversion
of the polyesters into environment-friendly films and containers.