How One NFL Team Will Turn Food Waste Into Renewable Energy
As if the fact that, in the U.S., we waste 40 percent of our food isn’t shocking enough, a recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that total emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane are almost twice as high in the U.S. as previously thought. More potent than carbon dioxide, methane is a deadly contributor to global warming.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all that uneaten food accounts for 23 percent of methane emissions as it rots in landfills. Other sources include livestock operations and oil production. And yet, properly captured or, better yet, generated in anaerobic digesters that break down food waste before it ever reaches landfills, methane represents a cleaner energy source for use in heating homes, running engines, and generating electricity. Yet challenges to the widespread availability and use of biogas remain.
Enter FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, where a new partnership with the Cleveland Browns and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has implemented a new system to will divert an estimated 35 tons of stadium food waste from landfills into biodigesters for conversion into energy. The system, called Grind2Energy, is a technology from Emerson’s InSinkErator, a brand many associate with in-sink disposals found in kitchens across the U.S. Far more than an industrial-strength garbage disposal, it’s an integrated system that includes leasing, installation, and service coverage of a closed system that grinds up food waste into a slurry and transports it to an anaerobic digestion facility where it is converted to energy.
Slurry from FirstEnergy Stadium travels to an anaerobic digester operated by Quasar Energy group at the Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center where it will generate enough electricity for a single family for a full year, produce enough natural gas to heat 32 homes for a month and recover enough nutrients to fertilize three football fields of crops.
As well as diverting food waste from landfills, the system at FirstEnergy Stadium will reduce carbon emissions by 28,000 pounds per year, generate enough electricity for a single family for a full year, produce enough natural gas to heat 32 homes for a month, and recover enough nutrients to fertilize three football fields of crops.
The closed nature of the system eliminates odors and enhances kitchen hygiene, decreasing reliance on cleaners and pesticides. The setup creates savings in waste removal because storage tanks can compactly hold three to four weeks of organic slurry. In some cases where such systems are in place, facilities have the opportunity to buy renewable energy and biogas back from anaerobic digester facilities.
The project’s partners hope that the systems’ implementation in a sports arena will fuel public awareness, in keeping with the U.S. Deparent of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA’s U.S. Food Waste Challenge, and encourage producers, manufacturers, communities, and government agencies to reduce and recycle food waste. According to David Krems, Business Development Manager for Grind2Energy, the system’s implementation in Cleveland has generated a lot of interest.
“We have the NFL asking us how do we do this at every NFL stadium," Krems said.
Currently the company has three Grind2Energy systems operational in Ohio, and one deploying in Milwaukee. They’re working to meet high demand for the system in the coming year, especially in the Northeast where many biodigesters are being built, making Grind2Energy a priority for global conglomerate and green housing innovator Emerson. Emerson is satisfying an existing demand. According to Sustainable America’s March 2013 survey, U.S. consumers support “stronger efforts to reduce food waste in restaurants and grocery stores”. And yet the survey found that the perceived importance of these issues lagged behind others—jobs and the economy, for example.
While a food-waste-to-fuel system doesn’t prevent food waste, according to Dana Gunders, a staff scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which partnered with the Green Sports Alliance to promote sustainable practices in the sports world, “It’s a great way to reach people who are often difficult to reach through typical environmental channels . . . I think it’s one more block in the domino effect that will eventually lead to change.”
While the widespread integration of anaerobic digesters into the energy grid continues to face hurdles like viable partnerships with energy providers and high initial capital costs for building facilities, they have already proven their value in use by the dairy industry in all 50 states, according to Tom Gallagher, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. And hopefully the model at FirstEnergy Stadium will be replicated at stadiums, arenas, and other large venues with high levels of food waste across the country.
As director of the NRDC Sports Greening Project and Sustainable America board member Dr. Allen Hershkowitz puts it: “Anaerobic digestion is an important technology that provides great potential to manage our food waste in a more ecologically intelligent way.”
While turning wasted food into energy ranks low on the EPA’s food waste recovery hierarchy, its combined benefits, including the mitigation of greenhouse gas generation, are undeniable. As support for bans on sending food waste to landfills grows, the true potential of anaerobic digestion, through the widespread implementation of systems like Grind2Energy, will become clear.
Turning food waste into renewable energy will become increasingly profitable as relationships between biogas producers and energy providers develop. If we can turn food waste into fuel, we’d go a long way toward reducing some of the harmful linkages between the food and fuel markets in the U.S.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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