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Old 04-12-2009, 01:13 PM
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S.F.'s scraps bring joy to area farmers

Dang those SF loonies. Now they're diverting methane creating garbage back into the food chain. Is there no stopping these liberals?

SF Chronicle
April '09

Every morning, garbage trucks swing by the Hotel Nikko, the Palace Hotel and MoMo's, picking up food left on dinner plates and in San Francisco chefs' kitchens. Green crews hit neighborhoods from the Mission to the Sunset, collecting oatmeal, chicken bones and dead tree leaves.

About 2,000 restaurants, 2,080 large apartment buildings and 50,000 single-family homes have embraced the city's environmentally friendly green bins. The scrap is turned into gold, a rich compost that boosts the region's bounty of food while curbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

San Francisco's garbage and recycling companies are leading the way in producing a high-quality, boutique compost tailored for Bay Area growers, experts say. In one year, 105,000 tons of food scraps and yard trimmings - 404 tons each weekday - get turned into 20,000 tons of compost for 10,000 acres.

The compost is in such demand from nearby growers of wine grapes, vegetables and nuts that it sells out at peak spreading season every year.

One big payoff comes from the crops that return to feed the Bay Area, making a full circle of food returning to food. The composted crops are sold in farmers' markets to restaurants such as Chez Panisse in Berkeley and in wine made by Sonoma and Napa vintners.

Reducing waste
Returning decaying organic matter to the soil also helps San Francisco meet a state law that requires cities to reduce waste going to landfills. The move also keeps plant and animal material out of the dumps, where it decomposes and emits methane, a greenhouse gas, and can leak into water supplies.

The city's success in the world of waste is attracting attention as a model for other cities, experts say. Meanwhile, Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to take an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors that would make composting and recycling mandatory for all residential and commercial customers and levy fines of up to $500 for repeat offenders.

San Francisco has a self-imposed goal of diverting three-quarters of its waste from landfills in 2010. Food scraps thrown in black garbage bins make up about a third of that.

Other Bay Area counties are revving up green waste collection. Waste Management picks it up in Oakland, Hayward and other East Bay cities and sends it to commercial composters.

GreenWaste collects in Sonoma and Santa Clara counties and creates a compost for sale to growers and gardeners. The organic material that Allied Waste Management Services picks up in parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties is used as landfill cover.

San Francisco's compost is sold under the brand of Jepson Prairie Organics, a subsidiary of Norcal Waste Systems, the parent company of employee-owned Sunset Scavenger and Golden Gate Disposal and Recycling Co.

Farmers can't get enough of it, they say. At Green String Farm outside Petaluma earlier this month, farmer Bob Cannard turned piles of the San Francisco compost that he's been buying for three years. He sells vegetables to Chez Panisse and Eccolo in Berkeley, Quince in San Francisco and a dozen other local restaurants.

"Send us your scrap, and we'll send it back to you as food," said Cannard. "We can't do it ourselves."

He uses the compost at the 138-acre farm, which supports a year-round fruit and vegetable market, and at a 30-acre home farm in the Sonoma Valley. The compost also goes to the vineyards of Jacuzzi Family Winery and Cline Cellars, which he manages with Fred Cline. In addition, Cannard runs an institute that teaches young farmers how to produce food for local residents and restaurants.

Collecting scraps since 1996
Sunset Scavenger began collecting greens for compost in 1996 at the city's wholesale produce market east of Bayshore Boulevard. Soon after that, Golden Gate Recycling started picking up food scraps at downtown hotels and restaurants.

Norcal set up a yard to make compost east of Vacaville, and it sells San Francisco gold for about $12 a cubic yard or $480 a truckload, plus transportation costs.

Two popular organic farms that sell at the Ferry Building and deliver to customers, Eat Well Farm near Dixon and Capay Fruits and Vegetables near Winters (Yolo County), started buying the compost. In three years, Eat Well had healthier plants and higher yields, and Capay's heirloom tomatoes looked like melons.

San Francisco's compost - brewed from a diverse mix of crab shells and shrimp tails from Fisherman's Wharf restaurants, coffee grounds from cafes and broccoli leaves and chard ends from residences - builds a healthy soil that fertilizes plants, retains water, fights disease.

The rich soil also stores carbon, the most common greenhouse gas of all.

More than 12o vineyards have used the compost, including early customers Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, Far Niente in Oakville and Saintsbury Vineyard and Baldacci Family Vineyards in Napa.

But, say agronomists, the compost works magic if it is used with other farming tricks such as planting resting fields in the off-season with peas and beans that take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil. Farmers mow the legumes and till them before planting commercial crops.

Taking that extra step helps build big root systems, which go deep in the soil and increase the amount of carbon stored there, said Bob Shaffer, former president of the North Coast chapter of California Certified Organic Farmers who consults with dozens of growers.

Adjusting the recipe
Three years ago, Shaffer started working at Jepson Prairie Organics to adjust the compost recipe, adding a few minerals and other ingredients. The food-scrap compost, which is separate from yard-trimming compost, is also made for wine grapes and other crops.

By some estimates, a plant exudes half its total weight in carbon into the soil, and the carbon is captured by beneficial bacteria and fungi.

"The plant has a tremendous ability to take carbon from the air and put it into the soil where it's stored in the form of humus, stable organic matter," Shaffer said.

Jepson Prairie is winning raves from scientists who know the compost game. For the past 20 years, Will Brinton, a Maine agronomist at Woods End Laboratories, has been testing soil and compost for California farmers.

Good soil is the best tool for fighting global warming, he says, because it's the largest reservoir of Earth's carbon.

"San Francisco has surpassed everybody with the attention to detail and the quality of the compost," Brinton said. "We tried to do the same thing with New York City," but getting citizens to separate green waste has "been a struggle."

Brinton is not surprised that San Franciscans have responded to the call for compost.

"Of course. We want to keep our lifestyles, and we know there are many unsustainable aspects," he said. "People are showing that they want to turn this big ship in another direction."

San Francisco's compost by the numbers

105,000 Tons of food scraps and yard trimmings picked up in San Francisco each year

50,000 Single-family homes in the city using green bins to dump compostable waste

20,000 Tons of compost produced from city waste under the Jepson Prairie Organics label

10,000 Acres conditioned by the city's compost each year

4,080 Restaurants and large apartment buildings that are recycling food scraps

$12 Price farmers pay for a cubic yard of San Francisco compost


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Old 04-12-2009, 01:25 PM
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I like the idea.
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:26 PM
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Someone figured out how to turn a waste product into a profitable commodity. I love the free market.
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:34 PM
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Well of course, most of the time, free market is the way to go, the prime mover, etc.

This is what we need to do in this land. We throw away too much stuff of value.

Blackjack card counters can amass large $$ by gaining a 1% advantage (if not caught). 1% average loss and you wind up broke in time.

Small savings of life force energy can amount to a great deal. Sounds a bit corny, I'll admit, but such composting is how the planet that we survive on was made.
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Old 04-12-2009, 02:46 PM
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2 year old Dirty Jobs episode.

Great system nonetheless.
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Old 04-12-2009, 02:52 PM
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India has perfected a system for converting poop & vegetable matter into methane through the use of a home made biodigester. It was specifically designed for the ashram/small village scale to produce enough gas for each household to have a gas stove. I used to know the inventor's name but it has slipped my mind. No doubt Google knows.

Anyway, I think a home with soloar panels and a biodigester might be an interesting combo. Back to "5 acres and independence"!
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Old 04-12-2009, 03:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skippy View Post
Someone figured out how to turn a waste product into a profitable commodity. I love the free market.
Actually, more I think about it, this is a collaboration between public and private. The city is under pressure to reduce landfill volume and gas emissions and they operate the curbside pickup.

Fortunately, there are entrepreneurs that can make good use of the stuff.
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Old 04-12-2009, 03:45 PM
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My Mom used to have this really small garden. She made me pee in a pail.
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Old 04-12-2009, 04:06 PM
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These guys are both liberals and capitalists. What more could one ask for?
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Old 04-12-2009, 04:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Botnst View Post
India has perfected a system for converting poop & vegetable matter into methane through the use of a home made biodigester. It was specifically designed for the ashram/small village scale to produce enough gas for each household to have a gas stove. I used to know the inventor's name but it has slipped my mind. No doubt Google knows.

Anyway, I think a home with soloar panels and a biodigester might be an interesting combo. Back to "5 acres and independence"!
This is a wonderful idea. Just keep KBR, ConEd and DTE out of it. Avoid monopolies on things like this for insane profit directed to a few. I'm a capitalist but I hate the controls caused by monopolies.
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Old 04-12-2009, 04:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuan View Post
My Mom used to have this really small garden. She made me pee in a pail.
You read my mind. I hate peeing in perfectly good water. I prefer regular old dirt to a pail, however. Some commune type arrangements that I've read about set it up so folks can pee comfortably and discreetly onto the compost pile, which I understand is preferable as raw pee on crops can be too strong.

I started a thread a while back that was unanimously ignored (): Yellow Is the New Green

There was an interesting line in the article that was near to my, er, uh, heart:

It’s been more than 100 years since Teddy Roosevelt wondered aloud whether “civilized people ought to know how to dispose of the sewage in some other way than putting it into the drinking water.”
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Last edited by cmac2012; 04-12-2009 at 04:51 PM.
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Old 04-12-2009, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by kip Foss View Post
These guys are both liberals and capitalists. What more could one ask for?


It's almost like the new age and stuff.
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Old 04-12-2009, 11:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmac2012 View Post
You read my mind. I hate peeing in perfectly good water. I prefer regular old dirt to a pail, however. Some commune type arrangements that I've read about set it up so folks can pee comfortably and discreetly onto the compost pile, which I understand is preferable as raw pee on crops can be too strong.

I started a thread a while back that was unanimously ignored (): Yellow Is the New Green

There was an interesting line in the article that was near to my, er, uh, heart:

It’s been more than 100 years since Teddy Roosevelt wondered aloud whether “civilized people ought to know how to dispose of the sewage in some other way than putting it into the drinking water.”
One of my requirements for housing (last 20 years anyway) is that I can piss in the backyard without riling the neighbors. 'Course most of that time I lived where I could not see my neighbor or their lights, not even from the outhouse. Everyone should spend a year of their lives without running water (or more if they care to) really gives a perspective. You start carrying all the water you need to survive, and the last thing you want to do is pee in it. And you don't let the faucet run while your brushing your teeth, or to let it get colder to drink, or while your doing the dishes. All in all, it'll make you a more conscious consumer of water real fast.

Didn't think you were supposed to compost bones or meat scraps. I've always pulled that stuff aside and buried it in a pit, or burnt it in the woodstove. Free BTU's
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Old 04-12-2009, 11:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Botnst View Post
India has perfected a system for converting poop & vegetable matter into methane through the use of a home made biodigester. It was specifically designed for the ashram/small village scale to produce enough gas for each household to have a gas stove. I used to know the inventor's name but it has slipped my mind. No doubt Google knows.

Anyway, I think a home with soloar panels and a biodigester might be an interesting combo. Back to "5 acres and independence"!
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Renewable-Energy/1981-07-01/Compost-Heated-Water.aspx
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Old 04-13-2009, 08:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmbdiesel View Post
One of my requirements for housing (last 20 years anyway) is that I can piss in the backyard without riling the neighbors. 'Course most of that time I lived where I could not see my neighbor or their lights, not even from the outhouse.
Rumor has it that I've been known to join the dog in marking our territory when night falls. Doing so in the daylight would do some riling, at least until some of the underbrush fills in.

Hey, welcome back Medmech.

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