B. Hunt, Governor
|Joe Hamilton named acting secretary||Brown Creek uses worms to
Recycling program affects everything from coffee cups to clothes
POLKTON Slithering through coffee grounds, kitchen waste and shredded paper, thousands of redworms are "doing time" at Brown Creek Correctional Institution. Confined in steel bins located on the prison grounds, the worms spend their days and nights eating their way through the prisons garbage, transforming the waste into fertilizer that will later be used to grow vegetables and flowers.
"In 1996-97, we didnt do a good job of recycling," Jackson said. "That year we disposed of 333 tons of garbage, so we got together and started planning ways to reduce that amount. This year we only disposed of 223 tons of garbage and managed to save the state more than $4,000 in disposal fees."
As soon as the first-shift officers arrive for work in the morning, recycling plays a part in their day. Gone are the Styrofoam cups once used for coffee. Now staff must bring their own mugs from home if they want that extra caffeine boost to help them get through the day. Jackson said the inmates also have their own mugs gifts provided to them by the staff at Christmas.
In addition to eliminating Styrofoam, staff at Brown Creek have also eliminated milk cartons by switching to a milk dispensing system and replaced paper towels in the restrooms with hand dryers. Plastic soft drink bottles were replaced with aluminum cans because they are more easily recycled, and 55-gallon drums of cleaning detergent have replaced the conventional five-gallon containers which used to be quickly emptied and added to the trash pile.
"We are constantly looking for ways to reduce the amount of items that end up being hauled off to the landfill," Jackson said. "Before we started all this, our Dumpster had to be emptied twice a week. Now we can go more than a month before it has to be emptied."
Brown Creek uses inmate labor to sort all the garbage produced at the prison by hand. Ten inmates make 70 cents a day sorting the trash into piles of paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastic and steel. The sorted piles are then baled and sold to area vendors. From October 1997 to June 1998, Brown Creek made more than $5,000 for the state by selling reusable items to vendors.
Sgt. Don Edwards said an unexpected benefit to sorting all the trash by hand is that the prison finally found out what was happening to a lot of the inmates clothing.
"We felt like we were losing a lot of clothes, but we didnt know where they were going," he said. "Recycling solved that problem for us. By sorting all of our trash, we found out that the inmates were throwing away their clothes, so they could get new ones."
Edwards said within the first month of the recycling program, $10,000 worth of inmate clothing was recovered, laundered and redistributed.
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