If you happen to be what is known as a turophile, there are perhaps few things more satisfying to you than settling down on a Friday night with a cheese board and perhaps an accompanying glass of port.
But did you know, cheese – or at least the excess whey produced when making it – also has a potential energy use?
According to The Guardian, one Yorkshire Dairy has recently signed a contract to turn by-products of one of the nation’s favourite cheeses into renewable biogas. How can cheese become gas? Will there be a massive cheese toastie bubbling away and heating the towns and villages all around? Not quite. Waste whey supplies will be used to make sustainable biogas through a process called anaerobic digestion. The Wensleydale Creamery has struck a deal to supply whey to the local Leeming Biogas plant, where residual ice cream is already being used to produce energy.
What is anaerobic digestion?
This is the process whereby organic matter such as animal or food waste is broken down by microorganisms, without oxygen. The gas that is produced can be used as a fuel.
So, why is this a big deal? Businesses are under increased pressure to reduce their carbon emissions and food that ends up in landfill can contribute to carbon emissions by releasing methane gas. With this in mind, as part of the UK’s recent pledge to meet a net-zero carbon economy for 2050, the government has urged that reducing food waste should be top of the business agenda. The Climate Change Committee stated that companies need to set out firm policies to end food waste going to landfill – and this is just one example of how this could look in practice.
The Leeming Bioenergy plant at the centre of this deal produces enough renewable biogas to heat 4,000 homes and coincidentally, Wensleydale Creamery makes 4,000 tonnes of its EU-protected Wensleydale cheese each year. After producing the sustainable biogas, any remaining waste whey will then be put to use as feed to improve the quality of topsoil on nearby farmland, meaning nothing goes to waste.
We think it’s a brie-lliant idea and we’re looking forward to seeing even more British businesses getting to grips with their carbon output, as we collectively work towards a net-zero carbon economy.