Food scraps grinded to make renewable energy; finding its new purpose in local food
By Gregory Jackson
(Photo: eight 32-gallon (24” x 21” x 63” tall) and eight 64-gallon (31” x 23” x 20” tall) totes in our truck once used to cart 35 tons of food scraps for the Cleveland Browns Hospitality Group will be repurposed to benefit local food initiatives in Cleveland. Charles Yarmesch, Groundz transportation, loading and driving.)
CLEVELAND BROWNS STADIUM Since 2013 the Cleveland Browns Hospitality Group has diverted 35 tons of food waste during Cleveland Browns home games by collecting the food trimmings into these totes. Cleveland Browns staff would then cart off the trimmings and dump its contents into a type of InSinkErator like the ones found in your kitchen to make renewable energy.
Except the system at Cleveland Browns Stadium is made by Grind2Energy, which is a recycling system by InSinkErator of Emerson (EMR), turns the food trimmings into a “smoothie” or slurry and sits in a holding tank. Quasar Energy Group, a leader in recycling organic waste for electricity, CNG, and nutrient-rich fertilizer collects the food waste into an anaerobic digester.
Other commercial size kitchens can generate up to 2.25 tons of food waste per week that is enough electricity to power 42 single-family homes. Quasar Energy Group uses a technology called anaerobic digestion – the company connects hoses and values to drain the contents of the tank at the Stadium and hauls it to their facility in Collinwood – where the slurry gets dumped into the “stomach” of the digester.
The material will cycle through the digester every 27 days.
During the anaerobic digester process methogenic bacteria breakdown the slurry, which releases methane gas that gets collected to produce compressed natural gas (CNG) and the CNG fuels a generator for electricity, leaving the only byproduct “digestate” that is a natural based fertilizer. In recent times, especially in New York, digestate has been unacceptable in the application of agriculture because of fears associated with its feedstock: While there is promising applications of anaerobic digestion in assisting wastewater treatment plants, material here could be sourced from human waste. Groundz believes that after pasteurization of digestate its application for non-edible landscapes is valid, but more research is needed to determine if its application is safe on food crops.
Yet 33 million tons of food waste ends up in a landfill every year and three percent is recovered and recycling, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Once our food waste ends in the landfill the anaerobic breakdown (similar to Quasar Energy technologies, but the only difference is in a contained system that helps provide climate change solutions) is one of the greatest contributors to global climate change. And almost none of it gets repurposed, according to our experiences.
Repurposing organic waste is where Groundz comes in.
Last year we repurposed nearly 72,000 pounds of organic waste ranging from celebrity chef food waste to Amish sawdust and donate it to our urban farming network. Prior to our help, farmers were either required to buy compost or drive out of the county to make multiple trips to have enough compost to grow organic and local food. Now their farms provide us with critical zero organic waste repurposing infrastructure.
The Cleveland Browns contacted us after learning that we are Melt Bar and Grilled’s official repurposer of their 5-gallon pickle buckets. Since April 2013, we have repurposed 3,234 buckets to serve as waste receptacles for our customers to use in their restaurants and cafes. We also donated 132 buckets to Rust Belt Riders, who bicycle to their customers for food waste recycling; the bucket donation helped them launch their business and divert buckets from a landfill. Melt Bar and Grilled is opening its newest location this spring at Progressive Field, home of Cleveland Indians baseball.
With the recent breaking down of one of our founding vehicles we have been campaigning with our Ford F350 Super Duty (crew) fundraiser that is bi-fuel and will run on conventional fuel and CNG. Our goal is to partner with Quasar Energy Group by delivering larger scale organic waste (ones that exceed Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s 300 square foot waste exemption policy for Class II waste composting) and deliver the material to the digester since there are three applications to organic waste repurposing: composting, renewable energy, and food. At the digester we will use the CNG pump on the digester to fuel our truck and demonstrate anaerobic digester CNG for the application of sustainable transportation for trucks, shuttles, taxis, consumer, and other commercial fleets.
We are planning to have a local artist design featuring the story behind these totes; organic waste recycling decals for local businesses or organizations may donate (tax exempt) to have the totes repurposed for waste hauling within your own facility, office, or business. We are waiting for permission by Cleveland Browns to repurpose totes for logo permission. With your donation you will receive tote(s) that will help us fund important initiatives toward our new truck and other zero organic waste recycling for local food, education, and wellness.
Photo: The Cleveland Browns Grind2Energy where totes Groundz is repurposing, were used to collect stadium food waste. The totes were wheeled onto this orange arm and latched for flipping food trimmings on a stainless steel countertop trough to become a slurry. The slurry is picked up by quasar energy group for turning the waste into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion.