Carbon-capture technology to turn Walkers potato peelings into energy and fertiliser

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Walkers crisps are one of the largest buyers of British potatoes, the company sources almost 400,000 tonnes each year from eighty farms in the UK. Now, in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint, new technology is being introduced to turn waste potato peel from their UK crisp factory in Leicester into a valuable fertiliser. Pepsico UK has joined forces with British clean-tech firm CCm Technologies to use their innovative carbon-capture technology on left over potato peelings.

Carbon-capture technology to turn Walkers potato peelings into energy and fertiliser

The material will be transformed into low-carbon fertiliser and returned to farms where potatoes for Walkers crisps are grown across the UK. Following a promising trial of the fertiliser, which was applied to potato seed beds this year, the company is planning to install CCm’s specialist equipment in 2021 to begin wider production. Once supplied at scale, the fertiliser is expected to reduce Walkers’ potato-based carbon emissions by 70%.


How does CCm’s technology work?

The process at the centre of CCm’s fertiliser production system combines an organic fibre, ammonia and CO². The fibre is coated in ammonia which serves to capture CO² by absorption. The CO² in turn stabilises the ammonia and allows it to be converted into a more useful form. At this stage, further nutrients, such as nitrogen and potassium from anaerobic digestion, can be added from other waste or recycled materials either to utilise a particularly abundant feedstock or to achieve a particular formulation.

The technology is designed to connect to Pepsico UK’s anaerobic digestor, which uses food waste to generate nearly 75% of the electricity used at the plant and helps ensure it sends zero-waste to landfill. The newly installed equipment will use the by-product waste from the anaerobic digestion process to create the fertiliser. By turning potato waste into a reusable resource, the company says it is driving more circularity in the potato growing process, helping farmers reduce their impact on the environment.

PepsiCo working hard to lower its carbon footprint

This initiative forms part of PepsiCo’s broader award-winning agriculture programme, which has previously helped UK growers achieve a 50% cut in their water use and carbon emissions. In addition to the low carbon status of the fertiliser itself, research projects that its long-term use will improve soil health, aiding a natural carbon sequestration process.

PepsiCo is also looking to bring the benefits of the new, circular fertiliser to further European markets and other crops, such as oats and corn.

David Wilkinson, PepsiCo’s senior director of European agriculture, said: “From circular potatoes to circular crops, this innovation with CCm Technologies could provide learnings for the whole of the food system, enabling the agriculture sector to play its part in combating climate change. This is just the beginning of an ambitious journey, we’re incredibly excited to trial the fertiliser on a bigger scale and discover its full potential” He continued “This initiative is a step in the right direction, and we will continue working hard to lower the carbon impact of our products from field, through manufacturing sites, to consumption,” he said.

Pawel Kisielewski, CCm founding director, said: “CCm is delighted that PepsiCo has chosen our technology to demonstrate the huge potential that innovative approaches can have in promoting sustainable agriculture across the UK. By enabling the sustainable reuse of waste resources and the locking of captured carbon back into the soil, our partnership represents a significant step forward in proving that agriculture can play a role in carbon reduction and the circular economy.”

CCm Technologies are a British cleantech company based in Oxford and founding member of the Sustainable Markets Initiative, launched by HRH The Prince of Wales with the support of the World Economic Forum. By targeting the massive carbon footprints associated with conventional fertiliser production, which it can reduce by more than 90% depending on the formulation in question, CCm’s technology can contribute meaningfully to the UK’s objective of net zero carbon by 2050.

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Chris McCullough is a freelance multi-media journalist based in Northern Ireland and specialises in all aspects of agriculture. He has spent the past 18 years travelling the globe hunting for the best stories in food, farming and politics. He has reported extensively from overseas, mostly throughout Europe but also from USA, Canada, India, Australia and African countries on various topics. He has won a number of awards for his photos and journalism and is always on the lookout for his next exclusive.

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