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How PepsiCo Saved $80 Million by Cutting Water Use 26%

PepsiCo water treatmentPepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snacks facility in Casa Grande, Arizona, treats and recycles about 648,000 gallons per day of process water from the potato chip and snack manufacturing process for rinse and wash water and for landscape irrigation.

This facility, with a “near net zero” footprint, became the first existing food manufacturing site to receive LEED EB Gold certification from the US Green Building Council in 2009. In addition to generating energy from renewable sources, the facility recycles up to 75 percent of process water, enabling Frito-Lay to reduce its annual water use by 100 million gallons, and sends less than 1 percent of its waste to landfill.

It has also helped the food and beverage giant beat its water conservation goal and save millions of dollars in utility bills and other expenses.

On Monday, as the UN’s World Water Week kicked off in Stockholm, PepsiCo announced it reduced its operational water use last year per unit of production by 26 percent, against a 2006 baseline. This exceeded the company’s previously stated goal to reduce operational water use by 20 percent by the end of 2015.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Lux Research recently ranked PepsiCo and Kellogg as the food and beverage industry’s leaders in water efficiency.

PepsiCo says its water conservation efforts saved the company more than $80 million between 2011-2015. Meanwhile, its broader environmental sustainability program, which includes energy, packaging and waste reduction initiatives, has delivered more than $600 million in cost savings over the past five years.

Additionally, through its charitable arm, the PepsiCo Foundation, the company has partnered nonprofit organizations around the globe to help provide safe water to 9 million people since 2006, exceeding its original goal of 6 million by the end of 2015.

“As a global food and beverage company, water is the lifeblood of our business and the many communities we serve,” PepsiCo’s Al Halvorsen, senior director environmental sustainability global operations, told Environmental Leader. “Conserving water across our global enterprise can have a huge impact on our communities and our planet. From a business perspective, these efforts help us lower our operating costs. By doing more with less, we are able to increase our agricultural yields, strengthen our water infrastructure and deliver cost savings.”

Also this week, Coca-Cola announced the company and its bottling partners have met their goal to replenish the equivalent amount of water used in their global sales volume back to nature and communities as well as improved water use efficiency by 2.5 percent from 2014 to 2015.

PepsiCo’s Halvorsen says his company achieved water savings through increasing efficiencies and implementing new technologies. This includes monitoring and fixing leaks as well as recycling and reusing water throughout its manufacturing operations. PepsiCo also treats its wastewater using cost-optimized biological treatments, capacitive deionization and forward osmosis.

“For example, our Treated Water Efficiency Tool allows beverage plants to optimize their water treatment systems, resulting in significant cost savings and water consumption reductions,” Halvorsen said.

Additionally, the company’s facilities capture and use rainwater through reharvesting and evaporation technologies.

“We aim to reuse as much treated process water as possible through recovery and reuse systems that enable the return of safe and clean water to the communities where we operate,” Halvorsen said.

In Jordan, for example, PepsiCo’s wastewater treatment and water reclamation and reuse initiatives cut its operations’ water usage by more than 40 percent per unit of production since 2006 — in one of the 10 most water stressed counties in the world.

“In addition, PepsiCo has launched community education campaigns and partnered with the Jordanian government to harvest rainwater,” Halvorsen said. “Ponds enable water to be stored for irrigation and a range of other non-drinking uses like sanitation. Unlike water desalination, rainwater harvesting is relatively inexpensive and uses less energy. It also helps to protect groundwater, improve flood control and preserve wildlife and bird habitats.”

The company also works with its suppliers to help them operate more efficiently with less water.

In 2013 is launched the Sustainable Farming Initiative for growers, which includes developing effective water management plans to preserve local water quality. Today the initiative has expanded to more than 28,000 growers in PepsiCo’s supply chain across 15 countries.

PepsiCo also developed and deployed a direct seeding machine for rice farmers in India, helping growers there to save more than 10 billion liters of water since 2013.

All of these efforts, which mean PepsiCo operations use less municipal water and use water more efficiently in manufacturing processes, have also led to more than $80 million in cost savings between 2011 and 2015. And, says Halvorsen, other companies can realize similar benefits by taking a holistic approach to water stewardship.

This includes doing more with less resources including water in all aspects of business and working with local NGOs to develop long-term solutions in places where your companies operates.

“Recognize that water is local,” Halvorsen said. “It is defined by the supply, demand and quality of water within a watershed in any given location.”

Photo: PepsiCo employee testing treated wastewater in Suadiye, Turkey

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