Chase DeFeliciantonio, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Dawn has just broken over Recology’s vast Blossom Valley Organics composting facility, about 70 miles east of San Francisco in Vernalis (San Joaquin County). The cold fall air hits like a slap to the face as orange light creeps over the horizon.
As the sun rises over the site, one of six the company operates statewide, a fine grit rides on the air, which is thick with the smell of earthy decomposition.
Operations Supervisor Clifford Reposa casts a wary eye on a 25-ton trailer of organic waste as it is hoisted on a hydraulic lift almost vertically against the pale and reddening sky.
“Not good. Lots of plastic bags,” Reposa mutters, his arms crossed as he watches a flood of pumpkins, apple cores, bits of wood and piles of leaves trucked in from San Francisco tumble out, adding to the towering piles of refuse that dwarf huge bulldozers moving it around in a deafening, mechanical dance.
This load of refuse is just a fraction of the roughly 1,500 tons of compostable material the 120-acre facility takes in every day from San Francisco and parts of the East Bay and South Bay. It comes here to be reborn as natural fertilizer used on vineyards and farms, and in varietals that are crafted specifically for different types of soil.
After those plastic bags and nonorganic materials are plucked out by men, women and gargantuan machines with names like The Titan, what remains will be placed into heaping piles that eventually break down into dark compost some farmers call “black gold.” Those heaps that stand higher than a person are spritzed with water and heated and cooled for two months to help trillions of microorganisms turn the solid waste into rich food for hungry crops.