PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division operating two snack and three beverage facilities in Turkey were searching several years ago for new ways to recycle manufacturing waste. As part of the zero-waste commitment for its manufacturing operation, they made the decision to invest in anaerobic digestion technology.
During the chip-making process, waste from potatoes, corn, broken chips and other organic materials are treated using an anaerobic digester, which uses microorganisms to break down organic materials in an oxygen-free environment. The result of anaerobic digestion at the Frito-Lay Turkey facilities is biogas and a sludge-like, highly organic material called digestate.
The biogas is captured and used to generate approximately 35 percent of the electricity needed to power its two Frito-Lay snack food facilities and PepsiCo figured out a way to turn the nutrient-rich digestate into a more efficient, less costly and environmentally friendly fertilizer to grow the 120,000 tons of potatoes that supply the company’s production facilities.
Frito-Lay’s use of its new digestate, Naturalis, on Turkey potato farms has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 11 percent over previous fertilization methods. The new fertilizer applies less nitrogen to the soil, especially synthetic nitrogen, adds organic material and generates less greenhouse gas than traditional chemical fertilizers during the manufacturing process. The conversion to Naturalis also reduces digestate disposal costs providing greater control over the fertilizer production process which will provide Frito-Lay potato suppliers more stable prices.
The idea was a collaboration between the manufacturing team, which was trying to find a better way to dispose of the biodigester waste, and PepsiCo agricultural advisors, who were trying to reduce the negative impact of soil additives used to grow potatoes. As the team was thinking about what to do with the sludge, another team was looking for new fertilizer approaches that were more sustainable.
So successful were the results, in fact, managers of the facility in Belgium are currently exploring with the Turkey agriculture team for future opportunities to produce organic fertilizer at the Belgium facility. The Turkey team is also testing variations of the organic fertilizer on cotton, corn, sugar beets and sunflower crops, and soon plan to sell the product on the open market.