Fifth and sixth-grade students at St. Agnes School in Osakis were busy helping the earth Friday, May 17.

They filled hundreds of bags of compost and sold them to residents who wanted to use them in their gardens.

The "plate to garden" effort was a collaboration with Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management. The 20-pound bags of compost were sold for $3 each. Proceeds went to the Aurzada-Tenhoff Playground at St. Agnes School.

The compost - created by Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management organics recycling customers - was in hot demand Friday as a steady stream of customers pulled up and bought a bag or two, or even 20 at a time.

One of those who stopped, Susan Grothe, drove from Alexandria to buy the compost. She said she wished Alexandria had the same program.

Items turned into nutrient-rich compost can be added to the soil, which reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and also can increase water retention, allowing for more efficient use of water, according to Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management officials.

The compost can be used for commercial landscapers, road construction projects and in gardens.

Organics - food scraps and soiled papers - make up approximately 38 percent of what is still in the garbage, even after strong single-sort recycling programs, according to Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management.

Organics recycling is an important part of effective waste management programs, the officials pointed out. Items are returned back to nature through commercial composting, which reduces resource use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Organics recycling also reduces demand and wear and tear on local garbage processing facilities, including Pope/Douglas' material recycling and waste-to-energy facilities.