U.K. Potato Chips: Saving Water by Producing Themselves

Posted by Brittany Wong

When you're popping potato chip after potato chip into your mouth, you wouldn't likely think about all the water that's expended during the crispy snack's production. A potato is around 80 percent water, and its evolution to becoming a chip involves extracting most of it (and putting in a whole lot of oil, of course). 

But what becomes of the water? In the United Kingdom, where the increasing threat of water drought will very likely bring about tougher government regulations on water use, PepsiCo [full disclosure: GOOD is a partner on Pepsi's Refresh Everything project] is coming up with smart ways to repurpose the potato's excess water. The company's four potato chip plants now use the water to process the chips themselves, or to produce other consumable products, like the brand's Walker's Crisps.

Treehugger takes a closer look at PepsiCo's potato plan:

PepsiCo is looking at this as an opportunity to experiment with what transitions are possible for factories in other, more water-strained areas of the world. Not only will it curb water consumption, but it will also curb costs as the price of water shoots up alongside scarcity. The company already has plans from farm to factory; it is testing out the i-Crop, which sits in potato fields to monitor the moisture in soil and minimize irrigation, and in the factories are plans for capturing the water that boils off during the cooking process of chips. Eventually the company wants all the factories to be entirely off the water grid.

The company's "off the water grid" goal entails shutting off the water mains entirely in its four U.K. factories, allowing the potatoes to run the show. This all might sound like a bit of a pipe dream, but PepsiCo has already made strides towards lessening water consumption in its European plants. According to an article in The Guardian, PepsiCo UK and Ireland reduced their water use by 45 percent from 2000 to 2008, and reported an additional 14.6 percent reduction last year. 

Photo (cc) by Flickr user soleiletoile