Milk protein production by a more environmentally sustainable process: bipolar membrane electrodialysis coupled with ultrafiltration†
The increased demand for food production to nourish the rapidly growing human population raises serious sustainability issues for the food sector. Indeed, conventional food production lines involve processes having a significant environmental burden. Hence, the present study aims to demonstrate an environmentally sustainable process of food production. The milk protein was chosen as a model food ingredient due to its exceptional role in the human diet. The proposed innovative process of milk protein production includes bipolar membrane electrodialysis coupled with ultrafiltration (EDBM-UF). The crucial problem during the EDBM-UF of milk, such as different types of membrane fouling, was successfully solved. Moreover, the life cycle assessment of the novel EDBM-UF protein production process was carried out and compared to a conventional acid/base process. Additionally, a sensitivity test of electricity supply at different geographical locations of the world was performed since electricity is the main energy source for the EDBM-UF process and it could be derived from different sources (renewable and non-renewable). The assessment results demonstrate that the proposed electromembrane process has significant environmental benefits compared to the conventional process using chemicals independently from the electricity supply mix from all considered geographical locations. Thus, EDBM-UF could become a prospective industrial technology taking into account environmental concerns and promoting the development of healthy human society.