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Whey2GOs - New Project with Saputo Dairy UK: Direct Valorisation of Whey

We are pleased to announce our Resource Action Fund-supported project with Saputo Dairy UK (formerly Dairy Crest), "Direct valorisation of whey through the conversion of lactose into prebiotics (Whey2GOs)".

The Resource Action Fund is an £18 million fund provided by Defra (the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and administered by WRAP, an environmental charity that supports governments and businesses to create a world in which we source and use resources sustainably. Aiming to support resource efficiency projects, with the goal of diverting, reducing and better managing waste, the Fund supports key policy outcomes in the areas of food waste prevention, plastics recycling, textile recycling and reprocessing, new recycling infrastructure and litter reduction through a variety of mechanisms including large and small-scale grants.

By valorising food waste streams, Activatec and Saputo Dairy UK’s “Whey2GOs” Value From Food Waste project is helping to support the UK Government’s important work in ensuring that no good food goes to waste.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said, “Nobody wants to see good food go to waste. It harms our environment, it’s bad for business and it’s morally indefensible. By redistributing surplus food, not only do we help vulnerable people, but we save vital energy and resources in the food production chain as well as the disposal process.”

Resource Action Fund Logo
Our Whey2GOs project is possible thanks to the Resource Action Fund

Over 180 million tonnes of whey are produced annually by the global cheese-making industry, with much of this by-product being discarded by manufacturers as waste. However, the disposal of whey is problematic due to its high organic content, and several inexpensive pre-treatment techniques exist to utilise whey directly as low-quality animal feed or fertiliser.

However, there is a growing demand for whey to be valorised into high-value products; we are therefore working with Saputo to develop valuable bio-based products from this waste material.

Nowadays, environmental considerations and new technologies make it feasible to produce a wide range of valuable substrates from whey with applications in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. The family of molecules known as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) has a particularly high market growth and potential. Currently produced from food-grade lactose (an intermediate product isolated from whey), GOS can be used as prebiotics in gut health products and in infant formula.

However, there is a significant variability in the market price for purified lactose products, jeopardising the profitability and viability of lactose-to-GOS production. As a solution, we are exploring the ways in which liquid whey - which is naturally rich in lactose - can be used to directly produce GOS.

The aim of our project is to fund a pilot scale study led by Activatec Ltd, implemented in collaboration with Saputo Dairy UK, one of the biggest dairy product producers in the world. We are aiming to utilise and valorise a variety of liquid wheys to develop high-value GOS products that can compete with those produced from food-grade lactose.

Additionally, working in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, we will perform a techno-economic and environmental analysis of the GOS production process with liquid whey as feedstock. This will allow us to identify further directions for technological improvements, logistics and transportation requirements of the liquid perishable waste, resulting in energy and monetary savings.

This project will not only help reduce the amount of dairy waste produced in the UK, but will result in a valuable bio-based product with a growing sales market demand, as well as an application which will ultimately generate revenue and create jobs, leading to economic as well as environmental gains.

Peter Maddox, Director of WRAP, said “We are delighted to help Activatec in its important work through the Resource Action Fund. Resource efficiency projects such as this will help us achieve our goal of preventing waste, and better managing our precious natural resources.”

To find out about our other projects, head to our website. And if you would like to find out about how we can help scale-up your services or develop your technologies, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Body Image: Gouda: Removing whey’ by Rebecca Siegel on Flickr (licence)


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