September 21, 2023  

A PepsiCo project turning potatoes into power

In Portugal, the company will soon transform potato peels into biomethane. Learn how one associate is leading the initiative to tap into sustainable energy and drive down emissions.

For more than 75 years, Lay’s chips have been cooked much the same way using three simple ingredients: potatoes, oil and salt. But PepsiCo’s Sustainability team in Portugal is joining the growing ranks of teams doing things differently — by tapping into the power of potato peels.

Marisa Neves, the Environmental, Health and Safety Engineer in PepsiCo’s Carregado plant, is overseeing the installation of a biomethane digester. The biodigester is a machine that converts potato peels along with other food waste from the plant into biogas — a renewable energy source formed as a byproduct of the peel’s breakdown. The gas is then purified, to remove elements such as carbon dioxide and water, to become biomethane. It is this higher quality gas that can be used to provide energy to cook Carregado’s chips.

Biogas is increasingly essential as a sustainable energy source at PepsiCo, with more than 10 installations of the technology across the globe. But the biodigester is a new approach to creating energy with Carregado as just the second site at PepsiCo able to convert biogas to biomethane — an innovation that offers a way to replace the natural gas traditionally used to power the facility’s ovens. “The project will allow us to reduce our natural gas usage for production lines about 30%,” says Marisa.

Once the biodigester is online next year, it’s estimated to reduce 4,212 tonnes of emissions — the equivalent of providing electricity to 820 homes for a year. Marisa explains the surrounding community will also benefit from the newly added power source. She’s working on plans to collect organic waste from nearby factories and local businesses to fuel the biodigester.

In my personal life I can do small actions, but PepsiCo gives me the opportunity to be involved in big projects and do big things to help the environment.


Cutting emissions with projects like Carregado’s biomethane digestor supports the company’s pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) transformation. As part of a set of Positive Value Chain goals, PepsiCo aims to reduce absolute emissions (Scopes 1, 2 and 3) across the company’s value chain by more than 40% by 2030, including a 75% reduction in emissions from our direct operations. PepsiCo is also working to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 — 10 years ahead of what’s called for in the Paris Agreement.

To drive down emissions, Marisa’s team is focused on adding inventive sustainability projects to Carregado’s operations. “We are all working together to develop initiatives and projects to reduce the usage of natural resources like water and energy,” she says.

In Carregado, they’ve gone beyond potato peels to source sustainable energy. About 6,000 solar panels have been installed to provide electricity. Marisa also oversees sustainability projects that use their boilers to produce steam without the use of gas. In recognition of their work in reducing water, electricity and gas usage, the plant received an internal PepsiCo Resource Conservation (ReCon) bronze award. “It’s exciting to receive recognition as leaders in the sustainability space,” says Marisa.

Marisa’s ownership over these sustainability initiatives gives her a sense of pride. “In my personal life I can do small actions, but PepsiCo gives me the opportunity to be involved in big projects and do big things to help the environment,” says Marisa. “I can’t wait to look back and say, ‘Wow, I was a part of that.’”