CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University are studying the environmental impact of whey when it is turned into alcohol, as more spirit-makers explore whey-based vodka.

According to OSU, turning leftover whey into vodka is far less damaging to the environment than dumping it into a landfill.

“There is a significant reduction of greenhouse gases, and the creameries have the potential to also boost their revenue,” said Lisbeth Goddik, professor of food science and technology at OSU.

As much as 90 percent of the milk that goes into a cheese-making facility comes out as whey, OSU said.

OSU researchers say distilling whey to make spirits could be easier and cheaper than turning it into protein powder. The process of distilling could be done by individual creameries.

“Cheese companies used to spread whey on fields, feed it to animals, and dispose of it in landfills,” said Goddik. “Neither is a great solution. Even if you decide to ferment the whey and then dump it down the drain, there is less damage to the environment. But why do that if you can create a value-added product?”

Scientists are also studying the flavor characteristics of different wheys and the spirits they produce.