Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 13, pp 13062–13075 | Cite as

Sustainable treatment of different high-strength cheese whey wastewaters: an innovative approach for atmospheric CO2 mitigation and fertilizer production

  • Ana R. Prazeres
  • Javier Rivas
  • Úrsula Paulo
  • Filipa Ruas
  • Fátima Carvalho
Research Article


Raw cheese whey wastewater (CWW) has been treated by means of FeCl3 coagulation-flocculation, NaOH precipitation, and Ca(OH)2 precipitation. Three different types of CWW were considered: without cheese whey recovery (CWW0), 60 % cheese whey recovery (CWW60), and 80 % cheese whey recovery (CWW80). Cheese whey recovery significantly influenced the characteristics of the wastewater to be treated: organic matter, solids, turbidity, conductivity, sodium, chloride, calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Initial organic load was reduced to values in the interval of 60–70 %. Application of FeCl3, NaOH, or Ca(OH)2 involved additional chemical oxygen demand (COD) depletions regardless of the CWW used. Under optimum conditions, the combination of 80 % cheese whey recovery and lime application led to 90 % reduction in COD. Turbidity (99.8%), total suspended solids (TSS) (98–99 %), oils and fats (82–96 %), phosphorus (98–99 %), potassium (96–97 %), and total coliforms (100 %) were also reduced. Sludge generated in the latter process showed excellent settling properties. This solid after filtration and natural evaporation can be used as fertilizer with limitations due to its saline nature. In an innovative, low-cost, and environmentally friendly technology, supernatant coming from the Ca(OH)2 addition was naturally neutralized in 4–6 days by atmospheric CO2 absorption without reagent addition. Consequently, a final aerobic biodegradation step can be applied for effluent polishing. This technology also allows for some atmospheric CO2 mitigation. Time requirement for the natural carbonation depends on the effluent characteristics. A precipitate rich in organic matter and nutrients and depletions of solids, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, Kjeldahl, and ammoniacal nitrogen were also achieved during the natural carbonation.


Cheese whey recovery Biodegradability Physicochemical processes Atmospheric CO2 mitigation Sludge characterization Sludge filterability 



The authors thank the economic support received from the Research Group TRATAGUAS (Spain) and Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (grant SFRH/BD/47559/2008), Portugal under the QREN–POPH with co-participation of the Fundo Social Europeu and national funds. The financial support of the Laboratory of Water Quality Control (IPBeja—Portugal) and cheese whey wastewater from the Queijaria Guilherme are also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana R. Prazeres
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Javier Rivas
    • 2
  • Úrsula Paulo
    • 1
  • Filipa Ruas
    • 1
  • Fátima Carvalho
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Tecnologias e Ciências Aplicadas, Escola Superior Agrária de Beja, Instituto Politécnico de BejaBejaPortugal
  2. 2.Departamento de Ingeniería Química y Química FísicaUniversidad de ExtremaduraBadajozSpain
  3. 3.Centro de Biotecnologia Agrícola e Agro-Alimentar do Alentejo (CEBAL)/Instituto Politécnico de Beja (IPBeja)BejaPortugal

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