First it was corn, which was suddenly discovered to be the miracle eco-ingredient for everything from gasoline to plastic films. Now it’s whey, the watery stuff that is left over when you make cheese. A group of European print and packaging companies under the leadership of IRIS, a Spanish research center, say they have discovered that whey protein can be substituted for polymer layers in film for food packaging. By developing a technique for the manufacture of whey-coated plastic films, said to have excellent oxygen barrier and anti-microbial properties, the consortium argues that this new technology improves food safety while at the same time providing bio-based and partly biodegradable packaging. Using a byproduct from cheese production that at present goes straight down the drain in order to create commercial value means killing two economic birds with one ecological stone – which should in theory please everyone.
Also on the ecology front, UK based API, which makes hot and cold foils for the label and narrow web converting sector, is currently working on a patented biodegradable cellulose acetate product which could improve recyclability of foils.