Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) unveiled an industrial scale pilot project that has successfully tested a global-first - artificial intelligence technology in Africa that reduces 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.
Speaking about the partnership, Saint-Francis Tohlang, corporate communications and public affairs director at Nestlé ESAR, said: "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 up this operation to other factories to deliver significant reductions in Scope 1 emissions in ESAR.”
The WhiteBoxTM set-up in Babelegi has been in successful operation for over eight thousand hours. The technology captures CO2 from flue gas emissions, recycles industrial wastewater and creates sustainable green products. 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. 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.
ECCO uses green chemistry and artificial intelligence to extract CO2 from emissions, using it as an ingredient in everyday products. This partnership helps pave the way for a green economy. “Our approach was holistic, ensuring that pollution remediation was key, along with other considerations such as water recycling and low fuel consumption. By design, the shift from legacy technologies to low carbon emission processes also improves livelihoods through employment creation, training and upskilling," says Thomas F Darden, ECCO’s CEO and founding board member of William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, and board member for the Yale Centre for Environmental Law & Policy.
“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, reinforcing the company’s sustainability initiatives, strategies and resources to help mitigate sustainability challenges such as waste reduction.