There's nothing quite like the thrill of a good football game, complete with roaring crowds, great friends and a cold beer in your hands. But when the ticking scoreboard announces the end of the final quarter, it's time to pack up and head home. While that may seem like the end of your trip to cheer on your favorite team, your impact lingers long after you've packed up your foam finger.
Thousands of fans gathered in one place results in a lot of waste, from discarded soggy nachos to half-eaten hot dogs. Most of this is sent to the landfill, where it piles up year after year and contributes to the 33 million tons of food waste in the U.S. each year. But one team in Ohio is trying to change all of that.
FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns, has entered into a partnership with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to divert 35 tons of food waste from the area landfills. The stadium will use a system called Grind2Energy, which will help convert its food waste into usable energy.
Grind2Energy grinds up the stadium's waste after each event. It creates slurry that is then transported to an anaerobic digestion facility operated by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, an arm of Ohio State University. At the facility, the slurry is put into an oxygen-deprived chamber where it breaks down into usable energy called biogas and leaves behind a small amount of residue, which can be used as fertilizer.
In addition to significantly cutting food waste in Cleveland landfills, the process will reduce the stadium's carbon dioxide emissions by 28,000 pounds per year. That's enough to fill a 13 mile-wide balloon, eliminate 2.7 cars or offset 1,429 gallons of gasoline.
It will also generate enough clean energy to power a single-family home for an entire year, or 32 homes for a month. The nutrients recovered through the anaerobic digestion process could provide enough nutrients to fertilize three football fields worth of plants.
On a larger scale, anaerobic digestion could go a long way toward reducing waste and emissions. According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if just 50 percent of the nation's food waste each year went through this process, it would generate enough clean energy to power 2.5 million homes.