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Kansas prison wins WasteWise award

United States – The Kansas Department of Corrections prison at Hutchinson has received the WasteWise State Government Partner of the Year Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The facility turned out to be the only winner in the entire country this year.

EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks says that 1.5 million pounds of solid waste has been diverted from landfills since 2010 due to the Hutchinson programme. He states: ‘This work benefits the environment for Kansas and this part of the country. It is a practical decision with a real environmental impact.’

The programme started in 2008 when inmate Warden Cline began to recycle paper, plastics, metal and textiles as a money-saving venture. Within a year, the facility was able to cut their refuse costs in half and, soon afterwards, old mattresses from the prison, local municipalities and universities were recycled as well. 

Already more than 17 000 mattresses have been recycled at the facility, with inmates breaking them down and sorting the materials themselves. The cotton goes to a company in South Carolina for creating sound-proof materials, the steel springs are sent to Colorado for recycling, and the wood from the box frame is used to manufacture furniture.

Mr Cline says the programme is designed to save the facility money but also to ‘give meaningful work …that helps engage inmates in the larger world’. He hopes other correctional facilities will adopt the recycling programmes as well.

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