San Francisco Compost a Hit with Local Vineyards

Food scraps i i

hide captionFood scraps and other compostable waste are put through a trommel to make the waste easily degradable.

Larry Strong/Courtesy Norcal Waste
Food scraps

Food scraps and other compostable waste are put through a trommel to make the waste easily degradable.

Larry Strong/Courtesy Norcal Waste
A truck at Jepson Prairie Composting i i

hide captionA truck at Jepson Prairie Composting is loaded with compost for delivery to local buyers.

Larry Strong/Courtesy Norcal Waste
A truck at Jepson Prairie Composting

A truck at Jepson Prairie Composting is loaded with compost for delivery to local buyers.

Larry Strong/Courtesy Norcal Waste
Kathleen Inman holds a tray of grapes i i

hide captionKathleen Inman holds a tray of grapes from the Inman Family Vineyard in the Russian River Valley in California.

Larry Strong/Courtesy Norcal Waste
Kathleen Inman holds a tray of grapes

Kathleen Inman holds a tray of grapes from the Inman Family Vineyard in the Russian River Valley in California.

Larry Strong/Courtesy Norcal Waste

Americans throw out hundreds of millions of tons of garbage a year. Most ends up in landfills. But, in San Francisco an innovative program is turning kitchen scraps into compost for premium wine producers.

Since 1997, more than 2,000 Bay Area restaurants have joined a composting program that gives them a discount on their garbage bills.

NorCal, a private company that handles San Francisco's garbage, picks up more than 300 tons of compostable material, kitchen trimmings and plate scrapings every day. The wet mass from all of the restaurants is transported by truck about an hour north to Jepson Prairie Organics in Dixon, one of the largest food-waste composting operations in the country.

Jepson General Manager Greg Pryor says it will take about 60 days to transform the slop into a deep, brown compost that nearby vineyards will pay top dollar for.

"The best thing i like about it is that all this used to go into the landfill," Pryor says. "Landfilling is a necessity and it's a requirement. This isn't really a requirement, but it's the right thing to do."

A Jepson truck delivers 30 cubic yards of fresh compost to the 10-acre Inman Family Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Kathleen Inman bends down to pick up a handful of the special blend.

"It's just so rich," Inman says. "It has that same sort of smell after it rains for the first time and you're out in a field and the farm has that smell of the damp earth."

The San Francisco composting program is the largest of it's kind in the country and they're working to such a large scale because they have a deadline. By the year 2010, the city has mandated 75 percent of its garbage must be recycled or composted.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: