Nestle unveils Africa’s first AI powered technology reducing carbon emissions, recycles wastewater

SOUTH AFRICA – In line with its 2030 ambition sustainability goals targeting to attain zero environmental impact in its operations, and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Nestle is leveraging on science, technology and innovation to make the goals a reality.

The food giant through its East and Southern Africa Region operations has unveiled an industrial scale pilot project that has successfully tested a global-first, Artificial Intelligence technology in Africa, reducing emissions and saves water at its Babelegi factory in Pretoria.

The industrial scale pilot project is a partnership with The Emissions Capture Company (ECCO) using its proprietary WhiteBoxTM technology, a machine-learning based system that captures Scope 1 carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and recycles wastewater.

The WhiteBoxTM which has been in successful operation for over 8,000 hours, captures CO2 from flue gas emissions, recycles industrial wastewater and creates sustainable green products.

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The green products can be sold directly for animal feed, human food, consumer goods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals or used to eliminate sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions without the need for water.

“Our global commitment to reduce our impact on the environment influences every part of our business today. This partnership with ECCO demonstrates a significant evolution of our production processes to embrace circular principles at every step.

“We are extremely proud to be pioneering this industry-first technology on the African continent. This success takes us to the next phase, where we will be looking to scale this operation to other factories to deliver significant reductions in Scope 1 emissions in ESAR,” said Saint-Francis Tohlang, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director at Nestlé ESAR.

Data collected from the industrial scale pilot coupled with industry-first machine learning techniques, demonstrates that the WhiteBoxTM can be calibrated to capture between 25% to 70% of Scope 1 CO2 emissions and recycle available industrial wastewater per site.

Much of this is done through direct air capture and energy-efficient gas processing, using low-fuel consumption methods.

“We are proud to have partnered with Nestlé in successfully demonstrating the capabilities of our cutting-edge technology set. This partnership helps pave the way for a green economy.

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“Our approach was holistic, ensuring that pollution remediation was key, along with other considerations such as water recycling and low fuel consumption,” says Thomas F Darden, ECCO’s CEO.

Thomas is also the founding board member of William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and board member for Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

By design, the shift from legacy technologies to low carbon emission processes also improves livelihoods through employment creation, training, and upskilling.

“The industrial scale pilot project directly upskilled and employed 15 people from the local community and has the potential to create more jobs when scaled.

“Part of the operation has also included skills development for the rest of our staff at the facility to ensure a just transition to low emission operations, with no one left behind,” concluded Tohlang.

ECCO’s WhiteBoxTM joins several ongoing long-term projects under Nestlé’s RE sustainability initiative, that reinforces the company’s sustainability initiatives, strategies as well as its resources to help mitigate sustainability challenges such as waste reduction.

At the close of last year, Nestle launched its first carbon neutral dairy farm, Skimmelkrans in George, South Africa with the aim of becoming carbon net zero by 2023.

The Skimmelkrans farm has set itself apart through prudent soil work, water conservation, feed management and manure processing, where the most significant reductions of greenhouse gases occur.

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