Frito-Lay is testing its "enviro-friendly" manufacturing innovations on its Plano, Ariz., production plant, what it calls the ‘greenest manufacturing plant in the U.S.’

Frito-Lay’s new Casa Grande, Ariz., plant, which producesLays, Tostitos, SunChips, Cheetosand other brands, could be a test case for all sorts of sustainable upgrades to manufacturing. As the Plano, Texas-based company finds out what works, it may move the “enviro-friendly” features to other facilities to keep churning out delicious snacks.

Frito-Lay has worked a while on improving its manufacturing plants’ energy use, waste management and water efficiencies, with plans to bring all 32 of its production facilities to “zero-waste” status. The snack giant also recently completed what could be an even greater project: A 75% net-zero energy plant that the company is calling the “greenest manufacturing facility in the U.S.”

The just-completed plant features a water-recovery system that allows the plant to recycle 75% of its water, a biomass boiler powered by wood waste from local municipalities and a 5 MW solar photovoltaic system. The high-tech plant also has a solar shade parking structure, high-efficiency tractors and trailers and a solar Stirling engine.  

The renewable energy and efficiency technologies are currently being used “piecemeal” at other Frito-Lay facilities, but this is the first time the company has merged them together into what is essentially a research and development learning lab. Frito-Lay reports it doesn't have concrete plans to replicate all of the Arizona plant technologies in future facilities, but Al Halverson, senior director of sustainability at Frito-Lay, explains that, “we need to be able to have this technology ready to go for when local and current conditions dictate it.”