Cleveland Browns and First Energy Stadium to Divert Tons of Food Waste from Landfills into Sustainable Energy
Publication: Cleveland Plain Dealer
Date: November 22, 2013
Reporter: Karen Farkas
CLEVELAND, OHIO - A company seeking food waste to turn into renewable energy and organic fertilizer has found the perfect partner – the Cleveland Browns.
How will Sunday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers end? Well, we know this: It will end with more than 3.5 tons of food scraps and leftovers from feeding 73,000–plus fans. That food, including bones, would have been sent to a landfill. Instead, starting this season, it has been fed with water into a commercial scale garbage disposal. The waste is ground, turned into a slurry and piped into a 2,500-gallon tank.
quasar energy group picks up the slurry at FirtstEnergy Stadium and delivers it to one of its anaerobic digesters, which produces biogas and nutrient-rich fertilizer. The biogas will be used to generate electricity, while the fertilizer will be delivered to area farms.
Mel Kurtz, president of quasar, said sports teams have committed to recycling and zero waste, so the Browns provided a great opportunity.
“Big sports complexes generate a lot of waste in a little period of time,” he said.
A major supporter of quasar’s initiatives is Jon Ratner, vice president of sustainability initiatives for Forest City Enterprises. That company collaborated with quasar to develop a digester site in Collinwood in 2012. Ratner said Forest City installed a food waste disposal system at Tower City Center in Cleveland about three months ago, to process waste from the food court.
That 2,500-gallon tank is emptied every two weeks, he said. Discussions to initiate food waste programs at Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena are underway, Kurtz said. And he is also discussing projects with Forest City Enterprises properties in New York State.
The system was installed in FirstEnergy Stadium prior to the season and has been used during all games and worked well, Kurtz said. It will be showcased on Sunday with representatives of those involved and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will recognize how the Browns are meeting challenges to reduce, recover and recycle food waste.
"When we launched Sustainable Cleveland 2019 four years ago, our mission was to bring together people who could apply sustainability principles to our local economy, and that's exactly what this group is doing," said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in a press release.
Browns President Alec Scheiner added in that release: "One of our top priorities is innovation, and this new system not only helps our stadium operate efficiently but also preserves valuable resources in our community."
In addition to diverting 35 tons of food waste from landfills each football season, the Cleveland Browns program will 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 and recover enough nutrients for three football fields of new crops.
For a large scale food waste producer, such as the Browns, quasar worked with InSinkErator, a Wisconsin company that produces garbage disposals.
“The grind to energy is a new program for InSinkErator,” said Ratner. The Browns are the first professional franchise to implement the company’s system. Dairy Management Inc. is also a partner in the project. The digester periodically adds cow manure to lower acidity and boost the methane.
Since 2007 quasar has built 14 “digesters” that use microbes and enzymes to turn food waste, fry oils, sewage and animal manure into gases containing a high percentage of methane.
In 2010 the company partnered with researchers at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, an arm of Ohio State University. With state grants and the research center's expertise, quasar developed more efficient digesters, says Kurtz, and continues to operate a laboratory at the site, often working with state researchers.
The digester at Wooster supplies 30 percent of the campus’ electricity and a number of vehicles run on compressed natural gas that the digester produces, said Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. While other universities and states, such as Iowa, are collaborating on digesters, McPheron said, he is unaware of any that are involved in as large a scale with a private company as Ohio State.
He said Ohio State is working with quasar to scale down the size and scope of the equipment, to farm-scale biodigesters, such as those on farms in Europe. And it is conducting research on the nutrient-rich fertilizer that is produced by the digester to make sure it is safe and see how well it works on crops. “So many times people wonder if universities can partner successfully with the private sector,” McPheron said. “This is a great match and a great relationship.”
Above: Representatives from the Cleveland Browns, quasar energy group, Emerson Electric, Dairy Management, Inc., InSinkErator, U.S. Congress, USDA, Darigold, Forest City Enterprises, and the National Milk Producers Federation join together at the Cleveland Browns/Pittsburgh Steelers game to celebrate the installation of the first G2E system installed at a professional sports venue.