National & World News

Lay's building community soccer fields out of recycled potato chips Bags



As the next generation of young soccer whizzes in South Africa breathlessly out-dribble opponents and

score mesmerizing free kicks, many of those future Cristiano Ronaldos might already be showcasing

those tricks on a pitch made of potato chip bags.

Chips company Lay’s is making inroads into its impact goals by, well, putting up goals. In a project that

combines environmental sustainability with community youth engagement, the salty-snack giant is

partnering with its longtime Champions League partner, UEFA, and grassroots soccer organization

Streetfootballworld to provide the world’s first five soccer fields made out of potato chip bags.

For the project, known as RePlay, Lay’s has committed to using an innovative new bags-to-turf

technology to create playable fields. “[It’s] giving our chips packaging a second life,” says Sebnem

Erim, global food brands VP for PepsiCo, which owns Lay’s. The process, developed with artificial

fields manufacturer Greenfields, takes empty chip bags from local waste and recycling, then washes

and shreds them, and mixes them with rubber to convert them into pellets. Those pellets form a layer,

called the “Ecocept,” on the ground, on top of which an artificial turf is placed. The fields, which cost

about $200,000 to $250,000 to build, are estimated to have a life span of about 10 years—after which

the turf and Ecocept layers are both fully recyclable.

The locations for the sustainable fields were handpicked by Streetfootballworld, an organization that

builds soccer pitches and pop-up stadiums, puts on soccer festivals, and provides a youth soccer

program methodology to communities around the world for them to tailor and implement according to

their social needs. “We believe that football can be an effective tool to transform our societies by using

football as the universal language,” says its managing director, Vladimir Borkovic, via email. The first

field opened in May in Tembisa, South Africa; next up will be fields in communities in Brazil, Turkey,

Russia, and the U.K., to be completed before the year’s end. Erim says sites are chosen for where

they’re likely to have the largest social impact with a community, and the collection represents a diverse

set of countries in which Lay’s are available. (Though in the U.K., Lay’s chips are known as Walkers


Lay’s will also be responsible for upkeep and promises that all repairs will be carried out with net-zero

carbon. Streetfootballworld will be the “on the ground” facilitator for maintenance, but also with respect

to creating the on-field youth engagement programs. The playing fields are intended to be used by

young people and to reach 16,000 people in the first year. The programs will vary according to the

social needs of each community, but will all center around granting access to sports, and providing both

coaching in soccer and mentoring in broader social skills. In South Africa, for instance, the program has

focused on out-of-school soccer activities for children “that support education and provide access to

positive role models and healthy relationships,” Borkovic says. Lay’s also promises to provide soccer

uniforms and learning materials for young participants.

The community engagement piece of the RePlay initiative started between 2017 and 2018, during

which Lay’s built three fields in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, the largest in the world for Syrian

refugees, which gave 35,000 people access to the sport, according to Borkovic. They weren’t, however,

built using the new sustainable method, which will be important in this next phase “to increase the

communities’ sense of responsibility for their environment.”