Cleveland Browns Begin Initiative to Convert Food Waste Into Energy

Cleveland Browns Begin Initiative to Convert Food Waste Into Energy

Cleveland's public-private effort to turn food waste into sustainable energy takes center stage at FirstEnergy Stadium.

November 26, 2013
Waste Today Staff

The Cleveland Browns’ effort to divert stadium food waste away from landfills and convert it into renewable energy was showcased Nov. 25 when the Browns hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium.

Forest City Enterprises, a real estate developer based in Cleveland, saw the opportunity to spark an urban partnership with the Cleveland Browns football team; quasar energy group, based in Cleveland; The Ohio State University (OSU); InSinkErator; and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

The Cleveland Browns are the first professional franchise to implement the Grind2Energy system, manufactured by InSinkErator, Racine, Wis. At the stadium, food scraps are collected and ground into a slurry, which is transported to an anaerobic digester operated by quasar energy group at OSU's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, Ohio. At the anaerobic digester, which periodically adds cow manure to lower acidity and boost the methane, quasar produces biogas for energy and fuel uses.

"We like to think that what we've built here is a roadmap for developers, communities and companies across the country," says Jon Ratner, vice president of energy and sustainability at Forest City Enterprises. "We believe this is one of those moments where people will stop viewing something - in this case, food waste - as a challenge, and start seeing it as a real opportunity."

The implementation of the system at FirstEnergy Stadium will include the following:

  • Divert 35 tons of food waste from landfills every year  
  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 28,000 pound per year
  • Generate enough electricity to power a single-family home for a year and a half
  • Produce enough natural gas to heat 32 homes for an entire month
  • Recover enough nutrients for 3 football fields of new crops

"Anaerobic digestion is the starting point for sustainable solutions with economic benefits that will affect every American," says Mel Kurtz, president of quasar energy group. "It's a new way to think about how we use our food."

The idea that we can now transform food categorized as 'waste' into a source of renewable energy is truly a game changer, especially with an estimated 36 million tons of food waste from commercial and residential sources ending up in U.S. landfills each year," says Tim Ferry, president of InSinkErator. "The Grind2Energy system is a sustainable solution for facilities like sporting arenas, grocery stores, hotels, and academic institutions, and, as seen at FirstEnergy Stadium, it has the potential to revolutionize the future of food waste."

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says, "Now fans can feel even more pride walking into FirstEnergy Stadium knowing that the Browns are taking huge strides toward our goal of being a green city on a blue lake."