Walkers turns to beer-based carbon capture for low-carbon potatoes
Crisp brand Walkers is scaling up efforts to repurpose potato peelings and captured carbon for use as fertiliser - a system which can reduce emissions associated with potato growing by 70%.
The crisp manufacturer, which is a PepsiCo subsidiary, has been working with UK-based carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) firm CCm Technologies to trial the method for several months.
It involves taking the by-product waste from Walkers’ anaerobic digestor, which is used to convert waste potato peelings into energy, and adding the material to captured carbon. CCU currently captures carbon from several brewers, lowering the emissions footprint of the beer manufacturing process.
Fertiliser produced using this method was trialled at UK farms which supply Walkers for this year’s crop, with success.
Walkers is now planning to install CCm’s specialist equipment at its Leicester factory – where it hosts its anaerobic digestor – by the end of 2021. This will enable the firm to roll out the fertiliser to a broader proportion of its 2022 crop. The company estimates that it could reduce emissions related to potato growing by up to 70% once the rollout is complete, as typical nitrogen-based fertilisers are a key source of emissions from this scope.
PepsiCo believes the technology could also have applications for oats, corn and other crops.
“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,” PepsiCo’s senior director of European agriculture David Wilkinson said.
Food systems change
Agriculture is a key contributor to emissions in the UK and is regarded hard-to-abate, as most emissions come from livestock, animal feed and fertiliser.
It is also acutely exposed to the risks of climate change. Media coverage has been broad for issues like the Amazonian forest fires, but farmers colder and more developed nations, including the UK, are also feeling the effects.
The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) advice on aligning land use in the UK with long-term climate targets includes increasing forestry cover, restoring peatlands, incentivising the use of innovative fertilisers and reducing demand for red meat.
The UK Government was recommended to include some of these facets in its Agriculture Bill, designed to support the sector once the UK leaves the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, either safeguarding or increasing environmental standards. But the Bill has been criticised by green groups for lacking detail.
PepsiCo Europe’s vice president for supply chain Chris Daly recently penned an exclusive blog for edie on food systems change. You can read his piece in full here.
On CCU, edie recently produced a free-to-download ‘Explains’ guide answering all of the key questions that businesses might have. The report was produced in association with Carbon Clean and can be found here.