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How PepsiCo used a Lays potato chip plant to help heat neighboring homes

With Lay’s Factory Home Heating—a winner of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards—the vapor from cooking potatoes replaces natural gas to heat nearby houses.

How PepsiCo used a Lays potato chip plant to help heat neighboring homes
[Photos: FuatKose/Getty Images, jojje9999/iStock/Getty Images Plus]

Belgian real-estate developer Ion was looking for sustainable heating alternatives for a new residential area in the city of Veurne when it received a proposal from a surprising source: PepsiCo. The food and beverage juggernaut suggested a collaboration between the community and a nearby potato chip plant operated by Lay’s, a subsidiary. The vapor from cooking up to 20 tons of potatoes per hour could heat a water circuit, replacing natural gas with a more environmentally efficient process while simultaneously providing PepsiCo with a valuable carbon offset.

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[Illustration: Mauco Sosa]
The project—the winner of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa category of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards—is the result of a group effort from PepsiCo, the community of Veurne, and Belgian companies Noven, which designed the technology, and Fluvius, which runs the utility grid in the area. The technology will deliver heating in radiators and tap water to its first homes sometime in the first half of 2022, topping out at 500 households upon the project’s completion in the next 10 years.

The venture will help PepsiCo meet its targets to cut carbon emissions by more than 40% by 2030 (against a 2015 baseline) and achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, “but also helps us give back to the local communities where we operate,” says Wim Destoop, vice president and general manager of PepsiCo Northwest Europe. While the system started off as a convenient intersection of needs in one area, with the right conditions and interested parties, Destoop says, the process could be replicated elsewhere.

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