PORTUGAL – PepsiCo’s unit in Portugal, PepsiCo Portugal, has elevated its sustainability drive with an investment of €7.5 million (US$8m) in procuring a new biodigester that will transform organic waste into biogas, the company’s first in southern Europe.

The construction, slated to begin in April, will be undertaken at its snack factory in Carregado but on a separate site that will occupy an area of 420 square meters.

The new digester will have the capacity to convert over 21,900 tons of organic waste per year into 4,818,000 Nm3 (normal cubic meters) of bio-methane per year, equivalent to a 30% reduction in carbon emissions during the production process.

In a statement, PepsiCo Portugal said: “In addition to achieving a 30% reduction in carbon emissions at the Carregado plant, the bio-digester will also contribute to reducing gas consumption by allowing the facility to use the biogas produced during the process of anaerobic digestion.”

The anaerobic reaction is a biological process in which material, in the absence of oxygen, is broken down into gaseous products or’ biogas’ through the action of a group of specific organic bacteria.

The company explained that this process is used to source renewable energy, where biogas is used directly as fuel in the various stages of production, as well as for sanitizing the production lines and heating the sanitary waters in the changing rooms and canteen.

In its practical scenario, the new bio-digester will use the sludge produced in the factory’s wastewater treatment plant and potato peelings, as well as other food waste unfit for consumption.

The sludge is pre-treated and converted into a clean organic compound that is then transformed into biogas through the anaerobic process.

According to the company, the biogas is pre-treated in a purification plant, which converts it into bio-methane, to make it a direct substitute for natural gas.

PepsiCo country manager in Portugal, Fernando Moraga, said: “We are proud to start the year with the announcement of this pioneering project in southern Europe, which is a big step in the transformation process towards a positive value chain. With the new bio-digester, we will operate more efficiently on the planet by creating alternative energy solutions.”

Nelson Sousa, plant manager of PepsiCo, stressed that the sustainability project will allow the business unit to continue to be a ‘case study’ in terms of good PepsiCo sustainability practices at the European level and also an example of circularity and reconversion at the local level.

Since 2012, the Carregado factory has had a system for the production of biogas that allows a 50% reduction in electricity consumption at its WWTP (Wastewater Treatment Plant).

The plant also implemented a project for the reuse of heat in the ovens used in the production of Doritos that allows the recovery of wasted energy from the chimney and the production of steam, translating into a reduction in gas consumption in the factory in the order of 5%.

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