Their official colors may be brown, orange, scarlet and gray, but the Cleveland Browns and The Ohio State University have united with a common goal in mind: make things greener.
Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) is one of several partners working with the National Football League team to turn food waste generated at FirstEnergy Stadium into renewable energy and organic fertilizer.
The project, which kicked off at the beginning of the current football season, was officially announced on Nov. 24 during the Browns’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We are delighted to be a part of this project and excited about the opportunity to provide our expertise to help advance the very important work of environmental and energy sustainability in Ohio,” said Bruce A. McPheron, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES.
The project’s goal is to divert 3.5 tons of food waste per game from going to the landfill. This waste is processed in an anaerobic digester, which produces biogas and nutrient-rich fertilizer. The biogas is used to generate electricity, while the fertilizer will go to area farms to help replace chemical fertilizers.
InSinkErator, Dairy Management Inc., Forest City Enterprises, and quasar energy group are the project’s industry partners.
A Wisconsin-based company, InSinkErator manufactured a garbage disposal system that grinds the stadium’s food waste and turns it into a slurry, which is piped into a large tank. The slurry is then transported to quasar’s anaerobic digester in Cleveland, where it’s mixed with dairy manure to boost biogas production.
A Cleveland-based renewable energy company, quasar operates several anaerobic digesters in Ohio and other states, including one on the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).
“Anaerobic digestion is the starting point for sustainable solutions with economic benefits that will affect every American,” said Mel Kurtz, president of quasar. “The initiative at FirstEnergy Stadium can be repeated at stadiums across the country. Diverting food waste from landfills to generate renewable energy is a vision for our future that can be achieved today.”
OARDC renewable energy researchers also collaborate with quasar to develop new and improved ways to turn waste into green energy and products.
As part of the Browns project, OARDC will use the fertilizer created from stadium food waste and manure from its Krauss Dairy to supplement fertilizer used at its crop research plots. OARDC researchers will also use the material for compost testing.
When mixed with 100 tons of dairy manure, a season’s worth of stadium waste will generate enough biogas to heat 10 homes for one month, or enough electricity to power five single-family homes for one month, according to quasar. Additionally, this biomass will create enough organic fertilizer to replace chemical fertilizer use on approximately 50 acres of farmland.
“Working with such a diverse group of partners and industries shows the significance and wide reach that agriculture has in our society,” McPheron said. “It also exemplifies the power of the land-grant model of education, research and outreach that drives everything we do in our college and university.”