Hungry footballs fans help turn food scraps into renewable energy and fertilizer
The Cleveland Browns, along with its Stadium’s namesake company, have partnered with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the USDA’s Food Waste Challenge, creating a new system that turns each game’s food waste into renewable energy and a source of fertilizer.
Here’s how the process works. First, the FirstEnergy Stadium feeds more than 73,000 hungry fans each game. This leads to nearly 3.5 million tons of wasted food scraps per game that would typically be sent to the landfill. Instead, start this year, the food scraps, including bones, are sprayed with water into a commercial scale garbage disposal, the Grind2Energy system from InSinkErator. The wasted food is churned, forming a slurry, and is then pumped into a 2,500 gallon tank. Then, Quasar Energy Group then retrieves the tank of slurry at FirstEnergy Stadium, delivering it to an anaerobic digester at The Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). The digester creates biogas — a gas produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen — and nutrient rich fertilizer. Biogas can be used to generate electricity, and the fertilizer is carted off to assist local farms.
“This new partnership demonstrates the innovative thinking that we hoped for when the USDA and EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge earlier this year,” says USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Creative solutions to food waste provide communities with renewable energy opportunities and environmental benefits through reduced greenhouse gas emissions. We must better educate folks about the problem of food waste and utilize partnerships like the one in Cleveland to begin to address the issue of food waste nationwide.” The Browns are the first professional franchise to introduce the system into a sporting venue.
The joint effort from the USDA and the EPA is asking other large consumer groups — sports venues, hospitals, and chain supermarkets, for example — to contribute in the effort reducing, recovering, and recycling food waste like the Cleveland Browns have. “Digester systems are something this country's dairy farms have used for years,” Tom Gallagher, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “We have just begun to tap what is possible. Through new partnerships, dairy farms in all 50 states are able to house this type of system and turn food waste into food value for local communities.”
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