PepsiCo funnels funding into plastic recycling innovation projects

PepsiCo Europe’s innovation arm has confirmed funding for start-ups aiming to scale sustainability solutions for its supply chain, including chemical recycling for flexible plastics and packaging ‘markers’ that improve traceability using blockchain.

PepsiCo funnels funding into plastic recycling innovation projects

Image: UBQ Materials

The funding from PepsiCo Labs is being allocated across six start-ups, with topic focus areas of energy efficiency; plastic recycling; water recovery and sustainable cleaning and hygiene. Each start-up will have the chance to trial its solution within PepsiCo’s value chain, and opportunities will be identified for scaling their applications up in 2023 and beyond.

On plastic recycling, PepsiCo is supporting B Corp certified UBQ Materials as it works to scale a chemical recycling process for unsorted household waste, including plastics which are not yet recyclable and all organic waste. The process converts organic and paper wastes into lignin, cellulose, fibers, and sugars, and plastic wastes into their component polymers using a patented chemical process. The polymers are used to bind the other materials, creating a thermoplastic. UBQ claims that the resulting material is recyclable and that the manufacturing process is low-impact.

PepsiCo is also supporting Australian firm Security Matters, which offers an invisible ‘marker’ system for plastic packaging. These markers enable packaging waste to be tracked across the value chain using blockchain, which creates a tamper-proof audit trail. This solution could help mitigate waste crime and speed up waste sorting at materials recycling facilities (MRFs). Procter & Gamble (P&G) has already implemented a similar project, called HolyGrail. Security Matters has already secured the support of several other corporates including BASF.

Across its other themes, PepsiCo will support monitors which detect failures in steam traps using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve energy efficiency in manufacturing; an electrochemical wastewater treatment process which claims to be low-carbon and a process which converts cold water and salt into cleaning and disinfectant product using electrolysis. edie has approached PepsiCo Europe for details of how much funding each project will recieve, and over what timescale.

“We recognise that we have a responsibility to use our resources efficiently and reduce our overall emissions, but we can’t do it alone,” said PepsiCo Europe’s chief sustainability officer Katharina Stenholm. “By embracing smart collaborations through PepsiCo Labs, we can unlock breakthrough solutions, and play our part in scaling technology innovations.”


In other sustainability innovation news from Europe’s corporate space, British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has announced plans to invest at least £5m within a four-year period in UK-based start-ups creating sustainable technologies which it could implement in its value chain. Its focus areas for funding will be reducing operational carbon emissions; improving water stewardship and cutting food waste.

Sainsbury’s has partnered with tech and engineering services firm Williams Advanced Engineering to help identify and engage with the start-ups, all of which will be early-stage. Projects in the development, testing and deployment stages will be considered to receive a maximum of £500,000 each in initial investments.

Successful projects will see their technologies trialled in Sainsbury’s value chain with the potential for wider roll-outs. They will also receive tailored support from Williams Advanced Engineering.

Sainsbury’s and Williams Advanced Engineering have been collaborating since 2017, when the supermarket first installed the latter’s Aerofoil technology to improve the energy efficiency of fridges. By March 2020, it had installed more than 400,000 of the Aerofoil systems, which steer cold air directly back down fridge units to prevent cold air from spilling into aisles.

Sainsbury’s property and procurement director Patrick Dunne said that the innovations could, in time, “be adopted by all retailers” after their initial application at the supermarket chains.

Williams Technology Ventures’ director Matthew Burke added: “Embracing new and unproven technologies is a necessary requirement to meet net-zero and many of these products and services will emerge from the technology start-up community. [This project] will accelerate the commercialisation of these technologies through the opportunity of investment, trial and deployment across Sainsbury’s vast estate and operations. In doing so, it will act as a springboard for wider and rapid technology adoption by customers across retail and other sectors who all share common net-zero challenges.”

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