The French have known for a long time that cheese is the answer to many of life’s problems. But only recently has it been used an alternative energy source – one which supplies a year's electricity for 1,500 people in eastern France.
Producers of Beaufort cheese in the Savoie department have begun recycling the residues left over from cheese production to create new products and produce energy.
Almost 650 dairy farmers from the area have been working since October on innovative ways to re-use their waste. Producing 1kg of Beaufort cheese requires 10 litres of milk, and once the cheese has been made, the farmers are left with nine litres of lactoserum or whey – which up until now they have been forced to sell at a loss.
Reusing the waste to create more produce has opened up new possibilities for the troubled farm industry.
“The idea of the project is to use all that’s left in this whey to turn it into produce – butter, protein powder, ricotta,” Yvon Bochet, president of the Beaufort farmers' union, told BFM TV.
Making these whey products creates more residues, including sugar water, which in turn are reused by being sent to a bio-gas plant.
The plant, the only one of its kind in the world, is able to turn 99 percent of the cheese waste into biogas, which creates electricity and hot water for the plant.
The process allows French engineering company Valbio to provide electricity for 1,500 people each year.
And on top of being environmentally friendly, the region’s economy also stands to benefit. Ten new roles have been created to handle the new stages of production, and the industry is estimated to bring in €6 million per year.