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Pepsi's chip factories run on potato water

Pepsi's chip factories run on potato water

Posting in Sustainability

To combat drought, Pepsi's UK chip factories have begun taking themselves off the "water grid" by using, of all things, excess water from potatoes.

According to Walter Todd, a PepsiCo vice president in the UK and Ireland, his home archipelago is soon to be facing a drought despite its "rainy" reputation. Certain areas, including East Anglia, are already experiencing less than ideal rainfall, and so Todd and PepsiCo are taking action to ensure greater sustainability.

That sustainability, at least in Pepsi's potato chip (or crisp) factories, will come from a surprising source: the raw materials they already have.

Todd said, as reported by The Guardian:

We use around 350,000 tonnes of potatoes a year and 80% of a potato is water. So as we cook potatoes the water is boiled off and we lose it so the challenge we set ourselves is how to capture that water and use it in our operations so we take no water from the mains – we have got plans to get 80% there already.

Todd plans to take the four UK chip factories off the water grid entirely (meaning, they will source 100 percent of their water from these potatoes) in ten years, but actually thinks it can be done in half that time.

PepsiCo has already taken some serious steps in that direction--its UK and Ireland operations have seen a 45 percent drop in water use between 2000 and 2008, and a further 14.6 percent drop this past year. And the company is implementing new agricultural techniques that will better monitor the soil. That way, only as much water as needed will be used in growing the company's various crops.

"Water is the poor second cousin of carbon," Todd said. As wacky as it sounds, getting water from potatoes to power the potato chip factory is about as sustainable as it gets. Companies who work in stone processing may have more trouble getting water from their product, or so I've heard.

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Dan Nosowitz

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dan Nosowitz has written for Popular Science, Fast Company and Gizmodo. He holds a degree from McGill University in Canada. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure