THE cheese makers behind the favourite food of beloved clay-animated duo Wallace and Gromit have taken a leaf straight out of Wallace's invention book with their latest venture.

The Wensleydale Creamery has struck a deal to supply the whey from its Dales-based factory to a nearby bioenergy plant, transforming cheese waste into renewable "green gas".

The innovative move should supply energy to heat 4,000 North Yorkshire homes, as well as cutting carbon emissions for the Creamery.

A Leeming biogas plant, which currently runs on ice-cream residue, will use a process called anaerobic digestion to turn the dairy-based waste into renewable biogas.

The process has been used since the 19th century to capture natural gases created when food waste breaks down.

David Hartley, the managing director of the Wensleydale Creamery, said the project would bring sustainable environmental and economic benefits to the region.

He said: “The whole process of converting local milk to premium cheese and then deriving environmental and economic benefit from the natural by-products is an essential part of our business plan as a proud rural business.”

The firm produces 4,000 tonnes per annum of the cheese – which was awarded protected status by the EU in 2013 – at its dairy in Hawes in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

The Leeming bioenergy plant is one of nine across Yorkshire owned by sustainability investor Iona Capital, which estimates that it saves the equivalent of 37,300 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.

Mike Dunn, Iona’s co-founder, said: “Once we have converted the cheese by-product supplied by Wensleydale into sustainable green gas, we can feed what’s left at the end of the process on to neighbouring farmland to improve local topsoil quality.

"This shows the real impact of the circular economy and the part intelligent investment can play in reducing our carbon emissions.”

The latest bioenergy deal comes as the government prepares to carry out a major overhaul of the UK’s heating system to help cut carbon emissions to meet a 2050 target for a net-zero carbon economy.

The Committee on Climate Change, the government’s official advisory body, has warned that food waste should not be allowed to sit in landfill, where it rots to produce carbon-rich methane.

Instead, unavoidable food waste should undergo anaerobic digestion to create a natural gas that can displace the fossil fuels used for heating or electricity generation.

The net-zero carbon ambition will also require heavy carbon-cutting from manufacturers and farmers.