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A new option for leftovers?

A new recycling option for food waste may soon be available for Osakis residents.

With the Green Bag Organix Curbside Program, residents could put their food waste and food-soiled paper into 13-gallon compostable bags and place it in the same carts they use for their general trash.

Haulers will take it to the Pope Douglas County Solid Waste Management facility in Alexandria where the bags will be sorted out and sent to a local composter.

At the Dec. 12 Osakis City Council meeting, Nathan Reinbold, environmental coordination for solid waste management, and Debra Darby, marketing director for Bloomington-based Organix Solutions, provided details about the "co-collection" program.

Right now, about 30 percent of the solid waste stream is organics, Darby said. The goal is to reduce that percentage so the food waste doesn't end up in a landfill, where it would produce methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.

Instead, the food would be converted into rich compost that can be used on lawns, flower beds, vegetable gardens and local farms.

Darby said that 42 communities in Minnesota are members of the program, which launched in 2013.

Reinbold said that Osakis is being selected as a local pilot community for the food organics program because recycling is taking off in Osakis. He noted that the public schools, St. Agnes Schools and Galeon are already composting food.

The Osakis community is a "rock star" when it comes to recycling, Reinbold added.

The council wasn't asked to take any action on the program at this point; it was an informational presentation.

Acceptable items

Acceptable items for the Organix program include all food scraps, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, bones, eggshells, nuts, dairy products, bread, cereal, pasta, beans, rice, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, food-soiled napkins, paper towels and tissues, and pizza boxes from delivery companies.

Cost

In Osakis, the cost of the program is designed to remain consistent up to a 40 percent participation rate of community households. On a voluntary basis, that rate of participation can take a few years to achieve, according to Darby.

The cost of the Green Bag Organix program is $69.95 per household per year. That is the annual per household cost for subscription service. For communities like Osakis with a hauler contract, the cost of the program becomes part of their recycling/trash fee. This cost is $2.33 per household per month for organics.

All residents pay for the program, whether or not they participate. Organics recycling is voluntary so residents would need to opt-in.

The goal is to get to 100 percent participation, said Darby.

Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management has received a two-year grant for recycling organics and Osakis could use some of those funds for getting the specially designed blue bags to subscribers.

Right now, Pope Douglas has 49 commercial customers that are recycling organics.

The city's garage hauler, currently West Central Sanitation, would receive a reduction in their Minnesota solid waste tax, based on the percent of material that is organic.

Timelines

Organix Solutions hopes to coordinate a launch date for the program with Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management in April, perhaps during Earth Day week.

There may be postcards mailed out next spring, asking people to sign up.

Subscribers would receive a start kit that would include 60 13-gallon compostable bags.

Residents would be able to receive compost the following year.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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