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Sustainable energy from potato chips to heat up houses in Belgium

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Woman cutting potatoes in the kitchen
The initiative is part of an innovative project that repurposes heat from PepsiCo’s snack plant and transforms it into sustainable energy | Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

When Laurens Vandecasteele was looking for a new home in 2020, the Suikerpark neighborhood in Veurne, Belgium, topped his list. He was drawn to its modern architecture, lush community gardens, and winding bike paths. Plus, the parklike space was just five minutes from the PepsiCo snack foods plant in Veurne, where Vandecasteele works as Frontline Manager.

“The houses are on the site of a former sugar factory where my father worked for almost 42 years,” Vandecasteele says. “I like the connection to my past.”

Vandecasteele’s new home also has a tie to his present — Lay’s potato chips will soon be the source of its heat. “It’s nice to know that your own company has created a solution that can heat your home,” he says.

Suikerpark is part of an innovative project that repurposes heat from PepsiCo’s snack plant and transforms it into sustainable energy. The Veurne site cooks up to 20 tons of potatoes an hour, releasing heat vapor as a by-product. When real estate developer Ion wanted to find inventive environmental solutions for Suikerpark, PepsiCo proposed an idea: What if some of the heat released during the process of making chips could be put to use? With the help of partners Noven, who designed the technology, and Fluvius, the area’s utility grid operator, PepsiCo is making it happen.

“Using a condenser, we capture the vapor from cooking and heat a water circuit from 50°C up to 80°C,” – explains Frank De Clercq, Maintenance and Sustainability Manager at the Veurne snacks plant. From there, the heated water will be transported to the houses at Suikerpark, where it will flow through the central heating system into radiators and hot water taps. The first homes will be warmed with the technology in 2022. Once it’s complete, the project will heat a total of 500 houses using clean, sustainable energy.

PepsiCo has set targets to cut carbon emissions by more than 40% by 2030 (against a 2015 baseline) and achieve net zero emissions by 2040. The company has undertaken several ambitious projects to reach this goal; the Veurne project is yet another step. “The heat generated at the Veurne plant helps reach net zero emissions and replaces heat that would normally be sourced by burning natural gas,” De Clercq explains.

And, if the mayor of Veurne has his way, Suikerpark is just the beginning, “This heat network on the scale of a neighbourhood is unique and Suikerpark is the opportunity of a lifetime. This is a great project to introduce new concepts that can be brought to the rest of Veurne” says Peter Roose. As the technology develops, there is potential to expand the system to the local hospital and other public buildings in the future. The Veurne plant could potentially heat more than 2,000 homes.

EuroNewsweek is a dynamic news platform featuring lifestyle, sustainability, successful stories, tech, leadership, creative marketing, business, and the unstoppable people behind them.

Sustainability

Last day to enter the EU Organic awards

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Last day to enter the EU Organic awards
The EU Organic Awards was first held in 2022 | Photo: Zoe Schaeffer

Organic food producers in the EU will have until the end of the day to enter the EU Organic Awards 2024. It is the third year that the initiative will be offering a platform to a winner highlight excellence and innovation in the sector. The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030.

The awards are organised by European Commission, with the EESC, the European Committee of the Regions, COPA-COGECA and IFOAM Organics Europe. The EESC supervises the nomination, shortlisting and award process for three categories: best organic food processing SME, best organic food retailer and best organic restaurant/food service.

“The EU Organic Awards give a recognition to the innovation, passion and dedication of those who truly champion organic food and production in the EU and bring it closer to everyday consumers,” says EESC President Oliver Röpke.

Last year’s winners from the categories for which the EESC supervises have also joined forces to encourage businesses to seek recognition.

Kevin Scully, whose business The Merry Mill was awarded the prize for the best organic food processing SME, urged companies to nominate themselves: “I recommend other businesses to apply for the Organic Awards because it’s very good for a company’s profile and brings a great endorsement.”

Paul Kolarik, head of Austrian eatery Kolarik im Prater that won the best organic restaurant award, said: “Winning the Organic Awards generated great interest in our business from the national media. Thanks to the awards, new collaborations have also emerged and many political representatives became aware of our commitment to the organic and sustainability sector.”

The awards ceremony takes place on 23 September 2024, which is the EU Organic Day.

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Sustainability

Applications open for the EU Organic awards 2024

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Applications open for the EU Organic awards 2024
The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030 | Photo: Gregory Hayes

Organic food producers in the EU will have until May 12th to enter the EU Organic Awards 2024. It is the third year that the initiative will be offering a platform to a winner highlight excellence and innovation in the sector. The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030.

The awards are organised by European Commission, with the EESC, the European Committee of the Regions, COPA-COGECA and IFOAM Organics Europe. The EESC supervises the nomination, shortlisting and award process for three categories: best organic food processing SME, best organic food retailer and best organic restaurant/food service.

“The EU Organic Awards give a recognition to the innovation, passion and dedication of those who truly champion organic food and production in the EU and bring it closer to everyday consumers,” says EESC President Oliver Röpke.

Last year’s winners from the categories for which the EESC supervises have also joined forces to encourage businesses to seek recognition.

Kevin Scully, whose business The Merry Mill was awarded the prize for the best organic food processing SME, urged companies to nominate themselves: “I recommend other businesses to apply for the Organic Awards because it’s very good for a company’s profile and brings a great endorsement.”

Paul Kolarik, head of Austrian eatery Kolarik im Prater that won the best organic restaurant award, said: “Winning the Organic Awards generated great interest in our business from the national media. Thanks to the awards, new collaborations have also emerged and many political representatives became aware of our commitment to the organic and sustainability sector.”

The awards ceremony takes place on 23 September 2024, which is the EU Organic Day.

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Sustainability

UK – Saudi research explores how AI can drive sustainability

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UK - Saudi research explores how AI can drive sustainability
The UK construction industry uses up to 40 percent of the UK’s raw resources every year

Academics from Northumbria University and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Saudi Arabia are investigating how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can make the construction industry greener.

Dr Pablo Martinez Rodriguez, from Northumbria’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment and co-investigator Dr. Osama Mohsen from KFUPM have received funding from the British Council’s UK Saudi Challenge Fund to undertake a year-long research project. They have been selected because of their expertise and history of research in this field. In particular, their work will look at reducing waste from construction sites in the UK and Saudi Arabia as part of a major drive toward greater sustainability.

The UK construction industry uses up to 40 percent of the UK’s raw resources every year, 20% of which ends up in landfills. Current UK efforts have managed to divert about 13 percent of it from landfills, looking for alternative ways of disposal or finding novel uses to certain materials, however that is far from the 99 percent goal set up for the near future. Waste reduction in the construction industry is key for any country aiming to achieve the UN sustainability goals marked for 2030.

Saudi Arabia faces similar challenges. But as a rapidly developing economy, it faces additional difficulties in ensuring growth is managed sustainably. According to Saudi Arabia’s National Centre for Waste Management, the environmental degradation caused by solid waste in 2021 had an estimated cost of $1.3 billion. Annual waste generated by the construction industry in Saudi Arabia amounts to approximately 130 million tonnes, of which less than 1 percent is recycled. The rest mostly ends up in landfills – and demand for landfill space is increasing rapidly.

Dr. Martinez Rodriguez and Dr. Mohsen will aim to develop AI models that can identify and quantify waste from a range of building materials, such as wood or plastics, that may end up in landfill sites but that could be recycled. The joint research will also help create a comparative analysis between waste management and sustainability practices in the UK and Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Martinez Rodriguez said: “Most construction sites analyse waste through modelling techniques, rather than measuring what is actually being thrown away. We need a flexible way of processing the data more quickly than we currently have, and by using AI we can install visual sensor systems that monitor skips at construction sites and derive accurately how much waste is actually being produced.

“This would give a value to the waste that is being generated at construction sites and help us better understand the capabilities of circular economy so that the building industry can become more sustainable.”

While the UK is considered to be slightly more advanced than Saudi Arabia in terms of sustainability, there is currently still no accurate waste measurement system in either country. “Our research will therefore have an impact in both the UK and Saudi Arabia and help inform policy and develop best-practice guidelines for the industry,” added Dr. Martinez Rodriguez.

Part of the British Council’s Going Global Partnerships programme, the UK-Saudi Challenge Fund offers grants for UK and Saudi institutions to support research collaboration, internationalisation, and transnational education.

Northumbria already has a successful track record of sustainability research collaboration with partners in Saudi Arabia. This includes work by Northumbria’s Dr Muhammad Wakil Shahzad to develop a sustainable solution for clean drinking water that can be deployed to rural communities and set up easily without scientific know-how. In 2021 Dr Shahzad was awarded a prestigious Energy Globe Award (Saudi Arabia) for the project.

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