This Tortilla Chip Factory Has a Small Spontaneous Combustion Problem

An Austin-based chip facility’s new waste disposal system is flamin’ hot garbage.
July 23, 2018, 8:54pm
Photo via Flickr user Marco Verch

I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’ve all been there—you’re desperately trying to come up with a more efficient way to deal with your tortilla chip factory’s food waste, when suddenly, inspiration strikes. You march down the hall to your boss’s office, proudly slap your foolproof plan on their desk, and gleefully watch their expression change as they submit to your superior intellect and immediately resign, promoting you to the position of Head Chip Czar.

Your brilliant plan? Grind the chips down into a powder, pack the highly flammable, oil-covered powder into boxes, and then store them outside the factory in 100-plus-degree weather—just like a tortilla chip factory in Austin, Texas did two weeks ago.

Spoiler: The plan (along with your promotion and several boxes of chip waste) may all go up in smoke.

On July 12, the Austin Fire Department responded to a call from a chip factory concerning boxes of ground-up chip waste that caught fire. Apparently, the company had been tweaking its food waste disposal methods and thought that storing boxes of finely ground, grease-laden chip dust in the parking lot of their Austin facility in the MIDDLE OF SUMMER was a perfectly sane thing to do. To nobody’s surprise, several of the boxes spontaneously combusted, prompting fire department intervention and a change in the company's waste management policy—one would assume. However, three days later, more boxes of chip waste caught fire, prompting a second visit from the AFD. (The company probably just thought those first boxes that burst into flames were duds.)

In a recent Facebook post, the AFD explained that “We take [tortilla chips] seriously, as they are responsible for holding all manner of very important things—like queso, salsa, nachos, and various other sundry items that are critical to a Texan’s everyday life and well-being. So imagine how distressed we were to be called to a fire at a tortilla chip warehouse earlier this week… not once, but twice!” The post continues, detailing how as firefighters were putting out the first few flaming boxes, “large cardboard boxes of the same waste continued to ignite while we were on scene!” Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and thanks to the brave efforts of Austin’s finests, the fire was contained to the parking lot and did no damage to the building or the surrounding environment.

Hopefully, the unnamed chip factory figures out a better way to get rid of their food waste, or we might have to ascribe a whole new meaning to the term “flamin’ hot” chips.