According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (Fraunhofer IVV), the oxygen and water vapour barrier properties of the whey protein-coated film means there is no longer need for synthetic polymers coatings on packaging substrates.
The film was developed by Fraunhofer IVV as part of the Wheylayer project, which comprises Fraunhofer IVV, European plastics industry players and the University of Pisa.
It aims to establish a commercially feasible technique for developing whey-coated plastic films, without jeopardising oxygen or moisture barrier properties, and with increased recyclability.
Commercial production close
In a statement sent to FoodProductionDaily.com, Fraunhofer IVV noted that increasing use of environmentally friendly materials was “one of the main goals for packaging companies”, and had in part prompted the research.
Fraunhofer IVV claimed its new process, developed on a laboratory and pilot-plant scale, represented a huge step towards being able to fulfil commercial production for such whey-based films.
In the statement, Fraunhofer IVV said that engineering group IRIS, a partner in the Wheylayer project, had announced their intention to apply Fraunhofer IVV’s research on a much larger scale later this year.
Ismael Almazan, head of IRIS said, “We are looking forward to scaling-up the process that was established by Fraunhofer at the lab and pilot scale level, and fully integrating it in an industrial coating system to turn the Wheylayer material into a successful technology in the packaging sector.”
Production of the film-coating would represent a valid commercial use of whey protein from cheese manufacturing, said Fraunhofer IVV, with around 50m tonnes produced in the EU each year, much of which is discarded.
Extending shelf life
Fraunhofer IVV added that development of the film coating would also replace potentially harmful chemical-based plastics with a natural by-product that also possessed useful active qualities.
The institute said: "The idea is that the anti-microbial compounds, which are naturally present in whey, can be used to extend the shelf-life of foods.”
“Lifecycle assessments were also drawn up for the various formulations in order to establish the effect of raw material and energy usage on performance.
“Initial studies have shown that it is possible to completely dissolve the barrier coating from the substrate, without leaving any residue,” Fraunhofer IVV added.
Fraunhofer IVV will present their new whey protein-based packaging film at the ‘Sustainability in Packaging: Processes and Materials’technical conference as part of the International Converting Europe (ICE) event in Munich on 9 November 2011.