About the project

LIFE for Acid Whey


The dairy industry, with the constant growth of cow's milk production, is one of the primary sources of industrial discharges. When processing milk into cheese and cottage cheese, the yield is around 10%, while the remaining 90% is whey. Also, only a certain portion, in particular sweet whey from cheese production, is further processed, since it’s commercially more attractive and easier to process. Acid whey, which remains after the manufacture of curd, is often considered as waste.

With the increasing production of milk and traditional dairy products, competition in the dairy market is also increasing. Therefore, to enhance the competitiveness of dairies, continuous investments in modernization of production are necessary, with the aim of offering new products and optimising costs in the area of wastewater treatment and energy consumption.

Whey offers great potential in this field as it represents a significant source of highly searched proteins in the market of dietary supplements, a substrate for the cultivation of dairy starter cultures, a potential source of renewable energy, etc.

In addition to total dry whey proteins used as food supplements increasing protein nutrition value, the importance of individual whey proteins has recently been highlighted. These include β-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, immunoglobulins, bovine serum albumin, glycomacropeptide, lactoperoxidase, and lactoferrin. The importance of the latter is much greater, due to their regulatory and physiological activity in the body.


In the light of the current EU goals for establishing a circular economy and clean technologies, we will demonstrate in the project LIFE for Acid Whey several innovative approaches for further whey processing. The primary focus will be on optimising and demonstrating the separation process of individual whey proteins (e.g., lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, immunoglobulin) using monolithic chromatography. In pilot experiments and cooperation with external partners, we will test other possibilities of beneficial use of acid whey, such as the production of dairy starter cultures, the production of vitamins, the separation of residual lactose, lactate and whey proteins, and the production of energy.

Expected results

After the end of the four-year LIFE for Acid Whey project, we expect the following results:

  • Optimized technological process for the separation of whey proteins, competitive regarding production costs (high recycling rate of process materials) and quality (more than 90% purity of isolated proteins) product compared to existing technology, which will enable dairies to exploit a growing demand for specific whey proteins.
  • Established demonstration system with the goal of daily processing of 24 cubic meters of whey.
  • Implemented pilot tests for further processing of processed whey with the aim of efficient use of all remaining ingredients and reduction of environmental footprint.
  • Demonstrated capacity of 95% reduction of whey COD load in the process of anaerobic treatment.
  • Evaluated the best possible ways of reduction of the environmental burden of acid whey by defining sustainable concepts for different production environments.
  • Defined new technological solutions for the beneficial use of whey, which can bring new income to small and large dairies.


The LIFE for Acid Whey project will include the following activities:

1. Preparatory activities

  • Overview of the current state of the art and technology development and optimisation of the work plan
  • Establishing a pilot system
  • Setting analytics

2. Activities on a test pilot system for the separation of individual whey proteins
3. Design and construction of a demonstration plant
4. Logistics of whey management
5. Operation and monitoring of the demonstration plant

  • Test run and optimisation
  • Establishing process analytics
  • Demonstration of lactoferrin separation
  • Demonstration of the separation of other whey proteins
  • Establishment of a separated protein drying system

6. Whey management after protein separation

  • Establishment of a master plan for process fluids
  • Setting up a whey master plan after completed protein separation
  • Perform pilot tests for further use of whey after separation of proteins

7. Pre-commercialization activities

  • Distribution of separated proteins to interested customers
  • Technological assessment of the operation of the production plant with the business plan
  • Market replicability analysis
  • Market transferability analysis

8. Monitoring and measurement of project performance indicators and life cycle analysis

  • A review of project performance indicators
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Analysis of socio - economic impacts of the project

9. Dissemination of the project

  • Initial information and awareness raising activities
  • Presentation of project results to stakeholders
  • Networking with related LIFE and EU projects


One of the activities that we will pay attention to within the LIFE for Acid Whey project is networking with ongoing and completed LIFE projects. Below we present essential information of LIFE projects, as well as other projects co-financed by European funds, which are thematically related to our development area and technology.

We hope to exchange information as well as to create new research and development initiatives that can arise through networking. Other organisations and their projects are also invited to participate in the joint presentation.

Review of LIFE projects on new ways of whey treatment and processing, recovery of bio-based substances from the side-streams of the dairy
industry and other sectors of the food processing industry and their upgradation into products with higher added value:


Reduction of CO2 emissions by the PHB use obtained from whey: demonstration in dairy products packaging.

(production of biodegradable food packaging
material polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) by microbial fermentation of cheese whey)

LIFE 13 ENV/ES/000608


Full use of the whey produced by the dairy industry.

(formulation of an Action Plan and demonstration of an innovative methodology for the recovery of whey and its transformation into new food products, animal feed and biogas)

LIFE11 ENV/ES/000639


Recovery of tannery wastes for functional microencapsulated products

(demonstration of the feasibility of the isolation of protein products with gel-forming properties (collagen and gelatine) from tannery solid wastes)

LIFE12 ENV/ES/000568


Protein recovery and recycling from animal-byproducts processes.

(recovery of valuable protein fractions, like
gelatine and/or collagen from waste produced during the rendering process by application of novel technologies like isoelectric precipitation,
microfiltration and electrocoagulation)

LIFE16 ENV/ES/000467

LIFE Dairy!

No water! - A dairy industry which is self-supporting in water.

The objective of the project was to achieve
water self-sufficiency  and decrease the amount
of wastewater by 50%.

LIFE03 ENV/NL/000488


Sustainable management via energy exploitation of end-of-life dairy products in Cyprus.

(development and testing of a two-phase anaerobic co-digestion process of EDP with other substrates)

LIFE10 ENV/CY/000721

Review of LIFE projects on development and performanceof Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to reduce environmental footprint and implement the principles of the circular economy in the dairy industry:

LIFE TTG - The tough get going

Improving the supply chain efficiency of Eropean hard and semi-hard PDO cheeses and reduce its product environmental footprint by designing Environmental decision support system.  LIFE16 ENV/IT/000225


Promoting the implementation of product environmental footprint methodology in the European dairy sector

LIFE 16 ENV/ES/000173


Demonstrative model of circular economy process in a high-quality dairy industry.

LIFE15 ENV/IT/000585


Prevention of dairy products environmental impact trough ecodesign.

LIFE 13 ENV/ES/000615

Review of EU FP7 and H2020 projects in the field of new methods of whey processing , separation of individual components from the side flows
of the dairy industry and other sectors of the food processing industry and their upgrading into products with higher added value


Electrochemical water treatment system in the
dairy industry with hydrogen recovery and electricity production.

FP7 Project


Valorising waste whey into high-value products

(utulisation of whey for microbial fermentation to produce vitamin B12)

EC H2020 SMEINST project


Validation and market uptake of a natural disinfection whey-based formula for whole and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables

EC H2020 SMEINST project


Enhanced protein fractionation from protein sources for their use in special food applications

EC FP7 project


Whey protein-coated plastic films to replace expensive polymers and increase recyclability

EC FP7 Project


Transformation of the residual whey permeate from the cheese manufacture: lactic acid production

FP7 SME project


Ena od aktivnosti, ki ji bomo posvečali pozornost v okviru projekta LIFE for Acid Whey, je tudi mreženje s potekajočimi in zaključenimi LIFE projekti. V nadaljevanju predstavljamo ključne informacije projektov LIFE, kot tudi drugih projektov sofinanciranih iz evropskih sredstev, ki se tematsko navezujejo z našim razvojnim področjem in tehnologijo.

Nadejamo se izmenjav informacij kot tudi novih raziskovalnih in razvojnih pobud, ki lahko nastanejo s povezovanjem. K sodelovanju in skupni predstavitvi vabimo tudi druge organizacije in njihove projekte.

The co-financiers of the four-year project LIFE 16 ENV/SI/000335 LIFE for Acid Whey are:
  • European Commission: 2,622,435 € (59.08%)
  • Arhel d.o.o.: 1,664,004 € (37.49%)
  • University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Institute of dairy science & probiotics: 152,562 € (3.44%)


Layman`s report - Report for the general public

Layman`s Report

Short video 1 - demonstration plant development

Demo plant development

Short video 2 - pilot tests

Pilot tests

Short video 3 - control analytics

Control analytics

project kick-off presentation

Official project abstract

Press release

Project leaflet

About Lactoferrin

Extraction of Lactoferrin