Zanker Recycling in San Jose used to be a landfill. It is now a facility that recovers 95% of debris for recycling, and it is developing the largest green waste composting facility in the world.
Last Wednesday, on a very special field trip of the 150-acre facility sponsored by SPUR, 8 of us took a tour led by Michael Gross, marketing manager of Zanker Road Resource Management, and I took some pics from the window of the tour van (apologies for the occasional reflections).
Here we are.
We see an aerial photo of the facility before we set out on our tour.
This tile is made from recycled porcelain diverted from the landfill.
Tubes contain samples of the rock and mulch products produced by the facility.
This sign shows the prices for the recycled products sold on site.
A view from the top of the landfill of biosolid drying beds, and the mountains beyond.
Piles of different materials being processed, including concrete, asphalt shingles, drywall, brick, lumber, plastic, mattresses, metals, household appliances, automotive parts, clothing, tires, furniture, office equipment, sports equipment and yard trimmings.
A view of the water pollution control plant across the street.
A big pile o' trash awaits sorting.
What's a landfill without gulls?
One of the new machines waiting to be put to use when operations expand in the near future. It looks so clean and shiny.
A chipper at work making mulch out of discarded wood.
A view of the operations area where gnarly machines crush, screen and convey gnarly trash into usable materials.
Conveyor systems place sorted and crushed materials into piles.
A truck dumps off a large load of debris to be sorted.
A screening machine sits idle at the moment.
The co-generation facility processes food and kitchen scraps (green waste) into compost, then makes electricity from the methane gas created during biodegrading. Some of the electricity is used to run the facility itself (the "parasitic load"); any surplus is sold back to the power company.
Plastic bags and metals have to be manually removed from the organic materials prior to going into huge dry fermentation bins.
Ductwork carries oxygen in and methane and ammonia out of the fermentation bins to speed the process.
Construction waste and demolition debris require big machines and huge equipment to break down, running 3 1/2 shifts seven days a week.
Water is constantly sprayed from towers over the work area to minimize spreading dust and other particulate matter.
A mobile home is demolished by an excavator. With those big machines, it takes as little as ten minutes to do the job. The debris from demolishing a typical 2,000 sq-ft home can be processed and recycled in about 35 minutes.
Areas of the facility are like a barren moonscape.
Gulls like to hang out near the conveyor belts and pick off scraps of food.
A conveyor belt system moves material around during different stages of processing.
What a big mess.
180,000 tons every year are diverted from landfills.
Safety is no accide.