Want to recycle your food waste and/or other products for organic recycling? You now can.

A new organics recycling program is available through Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management.

Two pilot programs for curbside organic recycling have begun in the cities of Osakis and Glenwood. Residents in all other areas can drop off their items at the new organics recycling drop-off site at Pope/Douglas, 2115 Jefferson St., Alexandria.

Residents are encouraged to use either a paper bag or certified compostable bag to put materials in, to help reduce odor and mess.

Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management has been providing organics recycling to commercial locations, such as schools and restaurants, for several months.

Nathan Reinbold, environmental coordinator at Pope/Douglas, said that an estimated 18,000 pounds of organics recyclable materials are picked up weekly from 63 commercial locations. The materials are then brought to a facility in St. Cloud that has a composting site. Eventually, Pope/Douglas will have a similar site, said Reinbold.

Steve Vrchota, executive director of Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management, said that about 38 percent of what goes in the garbage is made up of organic materials that can be diverted for composting.

Items turned into nutrient-rich compost can be added to soil, which reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and also can increase water retention, allowing for more efficient use water, according to Reinbold and Vrchota.

The compost can be used for commercial landscapers, road construction projects and in gardens. Reinbold said to stay tuned for "a big community garden" project that's coming down the pike.

Curbside pickup

For Osakis and Glenwood residents, there is no additional charge for the curbside program. To get started, contact Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management either by calling 320-763-9342 or visiting www.popedouglasrecycle.com and clicking on either the Osakis or Glenwood household organics recycling icons. The first 300 people to sign up will receive a starter kit, which includes heavy-duty compostable bags that can be placed directly in your regular garbage cart.

What is accepted

Acceptable items for the organics recycling program include the following:

• All food scraps - fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, bones, eggshells, nuts and shells, dairy products, bread, cereal, pasta, beans, rice, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags and more.

• Food-soiled paper - napkins, paper towels, tissues, pizza delivery boxes and more.

• Certified compostable products - paper and compostable plastic cups, plates, bowls, utensils and containers. Look for the compostable symbol or the word "compostable" on certified products.

There are many items that are not accepted, which include the following:

• Styrofoam, chip bags, plastic-coated items, regular recyclable items (cartons, glass, plastic, paper, metal), clothing, microwave popcorn bags, paper coated with foil, twist ties, frozen food boxes, diapers, sanitary products, pet waste, cleaning wipes, dryer sheets, liquids, oil, grease and cigarette butts.

Reinbold and Vrchota said if residents have questions about other items for the organics recycling program, they should check with their garbage hauler company or call Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management.