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Dairy Org Partners in Food Waste Project

Anaerobic digesters aren't just for the farm, partnership shows

Published on: Nov 26, 2013

As part of a new partnership with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and other rural and urban organizations, the Cleveland Browns and FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, have committed to recycling stadium food waste into useable fertilizer and energy sources, diverting 35 tons of food waste from landfills annually.

The project builds on a USDA – Environmental Protection Agency effort announced earlier this year called the "Food Waste Challenge."

"Creative solutions to food waste provide communities with renewable energy opportunities and environmental benefits through reduced greenhouse gas emissions," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack explained. "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."

Anaerobic digesters like this one on a Pennsylvania dairy can exchange wastes into energy. (USDA photo)
Anaerobic digesters like this one on a Pennsylvania dairy can exchange wastes into energy. (USDA photo)

The Browns' project will collect food scraps from the stadium and grind them into a slurry, which is transported to an anaerobic digester. They are the first professional franchise to implement the Grind2Energy system from InSinkErator in their home stadium.

The slurry will then be transported to The Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, where dairy cow manure is periodically added to lower acidity and boost the methane content, producing biogas for energy and fuel uses, as well as vital nutrients and fertilizer that can be reused for farming.

According to the Innovation Center, the project will reduce CO2 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 and recover enough nutrients for three football fields of new crops.

"Digester systems are something this country's dairy farms have used for years," said Tom Gallagher, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. "But we have just begun to tap what is possible. Through new partnerships – whether it's with a stadium, or a hospital or a chain of supermarkets – dairy farms in all 50 states are able to house this type of system and turn food waste into food value for local communities. This proposition is just one of the goals that the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is setting for the immediate future."