Most Innovative Companies - #28 Frito-Lay

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1) Solar Concentration

Long rows of reflective troughs focus sunlight on liquid-filled tubes, which can reach up to 500 degrees. The hot fluid is then converted to steam, which heats oil for cooking. The steam is then returned to the solar troughs, in a closed-loop system.

2) Photovoltaics

These solar-cell panels convert sunlight directly into electricity.

3) Water-Recovery System

Frito-Lay captures wastewater from manufacturing lines and cleans it to drinking-water quality by removing bits of corn and potato, passing it through a bioreactor to remove broken-down starches and sugars, then filtering and disinfecting it using ultraviolet light and reverse osmosis. The clean water is then used again to wash potatoes, cook corn, and make snacks.

4) Co-Generation System

Frito-Lay's Killingly, Connecticut, and Kern, California, plants operate independently of the electricity grid, thanks to a natural-gas-powered turbine that creates elec-tricity and high-temperature heat converted to steam.

5) Biomass Boilers

Frito-Lay uses by-products from nearby industries (for example, pecan shells, cottonseed, and wood waste such as sawdust and broken pallets in its Topeka, Kansas, and Arizona plants) as fuel for its biomass boilers, which generate heat and electric power.

6) Stack Heat Recovery

When potatoes, which are 80% water, are sliced and fried, the water escapes as steam. Equipment captures the steam to preheat wash water and warm the building in the winter. When the water condenses, it's used to clean other spuds.

7) Packaging

Over the past five years, Frito-Lay has eliminated 150 square miles of packaging by reducing the materials by 10%. This year, it's introducing the first fully compostable chip bag with its SunChips line.

8) Food-Scrap Recycling

Almost every piece of waste generated at the plant is reused or recycled. The 20 million pounds of potato peelings and corn husks are sent to livestock farms for use as feed, and Frito-Lay consumes 150,000 tons less paperboard each year simply by reusing its shipping cartons five or six times each.