Technological Centre

Biopol, a circular economy project applied to waste from Galician dairy industry

Recently, Biopol project consortium reported on the first results of the research it is carrying out to obtain biopolymers from dairy industry waste, news that the newspaper La Voz de Galicia has echoed through the We are agro section and in the general edition of the medium: “The dairy industry residues that would have conquered Coco Chanel.”


The full report, signed by journalist María Cedrón, can be read at this link.


As explained in the La Voz de Galicia report, in addition to a firm commitment to the circular economy in a strategic sector for Galicia, Biopol aims to help the primary sector diversify its production:


“It also opens up a new business path for the sector, which can make a profit out of others. “It must be taken into account – as CETIM explains – that to produce a kilo of cheese, nine kilos of a by-product such as whey are generated. So instead of throwing it away, why not take advantage of it. And what better way than contributing to make sectors such as cosmetics or detergents more sustainable from an environmental point of view. Not to mention that those biopolymers can also be used to absorb heavy metals from water.


But how can a residue from the dairy industry end up being used as the wrapping paper for a scent as sweet as jasmine – a fundamental ingredient in Chanel number 5 – or another as fresh as bergamot? Adrián Rodríguez, head of business development at CETIM, explains the process: “The remains of the dairy industry are by-products rich in carbon. What we do is subject them to a bioprocess through which we use enzymes, bacteria or fungi that feed on these residues, thus obtaining biopolymers.”


Obtaining these molecules of natural origin is the task of CETIM. As the Technological Centre of the project, what it does is carry out in its laboratories all the investigations or the first synthesis tests to obtain biopolymers from whey. A posteriori, it also carries out research and support for its use in high value-added applications such as water treatment or encapsulation of aromas or active substances.”


The Biopol project consortium is made up of the CETIM Technological CentreINDUTEC Ingenieros, Dairylac -actually Galacteum-, CARINSA and SOELEC. CETIM has been in charge of developing the production methods for these biopolymers, which is why during the last months it has been operating a biological system for the production of biopolymers on a laboratory scale, consisting of three bioreactors; acidification, enrichment and accumulation. CETIM has used the experience and knowledge acquired during the operation of these reactors to optimize the characteristics of Biopol biopolymers and to carry out the design of a pilot plant to obtain them.


Regarding the final applications, the use of the biopolymer as an adsorbent for heavy metals, both unmodified, and conjugated with other polymers, has been evaluated. In addition, initial encapsulation trials of essential oils have also been carried out with the commercial biopolymer.