Now Playing

Follow That Compost!

Tracking San Francisco’s scraps from plate to field and back again.

Step 1:
All of the 165,000 properties in San Francisco, from homes to movie theaters to restaurants, have green composting bins.

Step 2:
Roughly 600 tons of food scraps and yard waste are collected every day by Recology’s 49 trucks.

Step 3:
Each truck heads to the S.F. Transfer Station on Tunnel Avenue and unloads 7 to 9 tons of compostable material into the organics annex. Then, 24.5 tons are loaded on to each of many transfer trucks.

Step 4:
The 18-wheelers drive much of the material to Recology’s state-of- the-art composting facility near Vacaville, called Jepson Prairie Organics.

Step 5:
There, microbes take over. The compost goes through 15 stages of sorting, grinding, aerating, and curing over a period of 60 days.

Step 6:
The compost is taken to a blending pad loaded with things like redwood sawdust, gypsum, rice hulls, and sandy loam. There, specialists concoct custom compost blends for specific soil types.

Step 7:
Fifty percent of compost is sold for landscaping, erosion control, and organic gardening. The rest is used on vineyards throughout Northern California. Et voilà: Your table scraps have become your table wine!


Read More:
Zero Waste All-Stars
How To Zero-Waste Your Own Life
The Family That Wastes Not
A Year of Living Trashlessly
The End of Trash


Originally published in the April 2013 issue of San Francisco.

Have feedback? Email us at
Follow us on Twitter
Follow Dara Kerr