Converting Food Waste to Energy at the Nation’s Largest Convention Center
by Doug Bradley, SAVOR… Vice President of Culinary
Managing food service waste in a convention center is an immense challenge. Chicago’s McCormick Place, the largest convention center in the Americas, draws almost 3 million visitors each year. SAVOR… Chicago takes the responsibility and opportunity to manage our business sustainably very seriously, a commitment that led us to be the first convention center in the world to receive Green Seal certification for sustainable restaurant and food services. Sustainability is embedded in everything we do. One of our most exciting challenges is to seek out new innovations that enable us to drive continual improvements. Every year, more than 30% of our country’s food supply -- 133 billion pounds – is sent to landfills, where it emits potent methane gas into the atmosphere instead of feeding millions of people. As the official food service provider of McCormick Place, SAVOR…Chicago has more than doubled our waste diversion rates since 2011. While much of this increased diversion comes through food donations within our community and visitor education, we’re also undertaking new approaches like the Grind2Energy food-waste-recycling system.
Making its McCormick Place debut this week at the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show, our Grind2Energy system will allow us to divert nearly 100% of pre-consumer organic waste. Grind2Energy’s technology combines a specialized grinder that processes food trim and scraps into slurry that will be stored onsite, in a safely sealed 8,000 gallon tank. As needed, the slurry is transported to a local anaerobic digestion facility, where microbes will break down the material to extract methane for energy production and to produce a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Minimizing waste is a challenge we fight daily through steps large and small; adding this tool that both eliminates waste and creates usable energy is a win for all of us. Also at the National Restaurant Association Show, SAVOR…Chicago is pleased to launch a new Green Seal promotion to the show’s more than 40,000 attendees and food industry leaders through digital menu messaging promoting Green Seal certification. We have found that education is one of the most powerful tools available to help spread the message that we can do so much more with less.
About Doug Doug Bradley is Vice President of Culinary at SAVOR. He leads SAVOR’s talented team of 80+ chefs around the country and also manages SAVOR…Chicago. Classically trained as a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Doug has 20+ years of industry experience in high profile organizations.