Food waste—and the sobering stats about its ever-growing volume—just keep piling up. The United Nations estimates that we waste about one-third of the food that we produce globally each year. Various studies show that less than 5 percent of this 1.3 billion-ton excess is recycled today. And as this food waste sits in landfills, it produces methane—a major contributor to global warming.
With commercial kitchens producing more than 4,000 pounds of food waste each week, we see an opportunity to take a bite out of a global problem affecting billions.
That’s why Grind2Energy™, Emerson’s large-scale food waste recycling system, is putting food waste to work—by converting it into energy. Our innovative process is transforming the way supermarkets, restaurants, convention centers and even stadiums handle the inevitable food waste coming out of their kitchens every day.
Through Grind2Energy’s unique process, food waste is ground on-site—at restaurants, stadiums or supermarkets—using a specially engineered, industrial-strength InSinkErator® grinder. The food waste is converted into a slurry, which is safely stored in sealed tanks before being transported to a specially equipped wastewater treatment plant.
From there, this material is put into an anaerobic digester where bacteria and other microbes snack on the decomposing food in enclosed tanks. As the waste breaks down, the microbes release methane—which is then captured and used to generate energy.
This process has an opportunity to have a big global impact. Sending 15 million tons of food waste to anaerobic digesters instead of landfills each year can remove the carbon emissions equivalent of about half a million automobiles.
The appetite to address food waste is growing across the nation. In Ohio, the Cleveland Convention Center is just one of many local institutions using the Grind2Energy system. Grind2Energy came to the city in a major-league way when the Cleveland Browns put the technology to use at FirstEnergy Stadium in 2013; the Cleveland Indians brought the service to Progressive Field in 2014.
On the West Coast, Northgate Markets introduced Grind2Energy as a pilot in its southern California grocery stores in 2016. Just one store in the high-end chain uses six cases of avocado each day to prepare guacamole and other fresh items. That’s nearly 300 avocado pits and skins each day, and it’s only one piece of a wide-ranging fresh-food menu. The impact of Grind2Energy was significant—and fast.
“Before Grind2Energy, we were spending hours each day composting our food scraps,” said Keith McCarron, director of distribution for Northgate Markets. “Grind2Energy has given us a way to dispose of this waste in a clean, orderly way without spending a lot of time or taking up valuable space, like composting does. And even better, we’re able to turn food scraps into energy and into a positive for both Northgate and the environment.”
As more organizations seek to address food waste in their own facilities, we see an opportunity to generate more energy around a global issue—and address food waste one grind at a time.