PERRY — Frito-Lay’s efforts to go green earned gold Tuesday.
Just months after being named Georgia’s Manufacturer of the Year, the Frito-Lay plant here became the state’s first facility to earn a prestigious environmental certification.
“It’s been a great year for us,” Craig Hoffman, the plant’s technical manager, told a group Tuesday gathered for the award. “Sort of like the (Warner Robins) girls softball team bringing home another one.”
The U.S. Green Building Council awarded Frito-Lay officials with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Existing Buildings Gold certification for the plant’s environmentally-friendly practices.
Since 2000, the plant has reduced its natural gas consumption by 35 percent, electricity use by 27 percent and water consumption by 38 percent, Hoffman said. In July, the plant sent less than 1 percent of its solid waste to the landfill — an 81 percent reduction since 2009.
The reductions were accomplished even as the plant is growing. During the same time, the facility has boosted its production capacity by 36 percent and its shipping by 38 percent.
“It speaks to the fact that what is good for the environment is good for business,” said Bob Crain, Frito-Lay’s vice president of operations for the Southeast.
The facility is the nation’s third existing food manufacturing site to achieve the LEED Gold certification. All three are Frito-Lay facilities.
In 2000, Frito-Lay launched a companywide campaign to cut its water consumption in half while also reducing its natural gas and electricity use by more than 25 percent. In California, several plants are solar-powered, Crain said.
“I think the most exciting thing about this is government is not mandating that you do this,” state Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said of the company’s efforts. “Yes, its good for business, but it’s better for the environment, better for the community, better for the country.”
The Perry plant has reduced its environmental footprint by installing waste heat recovery boilers, improved maintenance systems and upgraded oven burners. It also retrofitted lighting and installed low-flow, solar-powered faucets and flush valves.
None of the site’s processed wastewater goes to the sewer. Instead, it is used to irrigate its 1,500-acre lot. Potato chips that don’t make the grade are recycled with corn waste for animal feed, and recovered starch is sent off to make soap.
Hoffman gave credit to the plant’s more than 1,300 employees. In addition to an employee-led plastic recycling program and carpool effort, workers are helping conserve through steps such as making sure machines, water and lights are turned off whenever possible and using a broom and dustpan instead of a hose to clean small areas, he said.
“You can buy all those gizmos and gadgets, but it’s really the people who allow us to do this,” said Hoffman.