One Man’s Waste is Another Man’s Green Energy

The Cleveland Browns will recover more than 35 tons of food waste this year with an organic waste recovery system called Grind2Energy by InSinkErator. The system turns uneaten food into green energy and natural fertilizer and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by keeping food waste from the landfill where it can create methane.

A sustainable food system is a closed loop: Food cycles through the stages of production, processing, distribution, retail, consumption, and food waste recovery. This year, 2014, is the Sustainable Cleveland Year of Zero Waste and because of innovative solutions like G2E, Cleveland is emerging as a leader in food waste recovery through anaerobic digestion.

Here’s how the system works:

Catering staff at FirstEnergy Stadium puts food scraps into a commercial, non-sewer-based disposer. Minimal water is added and the food waste slurry is stored in a sealed tank. When the tank is filled, a vacuum truck removes the slurry and delivers it to Quasar’s anaerobic digester at Collinwood BioEnergy. There the food waste is digested by bacteria that turn it into a biogas that is used to create green energy, which is sold to Cleveland Public Power. The byproduct is organic material that is used as an agricultural fertilizer for food production.

Because of the system, the catering staff has no trash cans in the food preparation areas.

“We put them in clear containers so that everyone is conscious of the waste they are creating,” said Jessie Jacobson, general manager for Aramark at FirstEnergy Stadium. “Our chefs go around and look at the waste to see if there are coaching moments around creating less waste. For example, maybe you’re cutting the pineapple too far from the rind and there is an opportunity to waste less.”

Aramark has “compost champions” who put organic material into the disposal unit and help to cut down on contaminants such as straws and nonorganic material.

Heather Dougherty, sales territory manager for Grind2Energy, said the technology is a viable closed-loop organic waste solution for any operation that generates more than one ton of food scraps per week, including grocery stores, hotels, sports venues, hospitals, and schools. Tower City Center is another Cleveland venue using the G2E system for its food court and several other restaurants on site.

“This is simply the next right thing to do,” said Dougherty. “It is an efficient way to divert food waste from the landfill. It is an emerging technology, so there is much interest around it.”

The Browns project is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Food Waste Challenge, a program launched this year to increase organic waste recycling by sharing best practices among organizations.

To learn more about G2E visit Grind2Energy.com. To find out about special programs and events during the Year of Zero Waste visit SustainableCleveland.org.