The South Carolina Department of Corrections launched a statewide recycling effort that encompasses the state’s 32 correctional institutions and several other agencies.
Begun in September 1993, the program was established in response to the South Carolina Solid Waste Policy and management Act of 1991 that requires a 30 percent reduction in the waste stream and a 25 percent recycling rate by 1997.
One-gallon steel cans make up a significant portion of the recycled items collected from the agency’s 34 dining facilities.
The agency estimates that each year it uses more than 630,000 one-gallon steel cans (240 tons), along with a significant number of smaller steel cans.
“We believe that we can capture for recycling every single steel can that we use. In Corrections, we have positive control over our recyclables. If it enters an institution and we want to recycle it, we can,” said Les Sweigart, director of the support services division, which oversees the solid waste and recycling programs.
Steel cans are rinsed and flattened at the institution and then returned to the processing center on food service, canteen and commissary trucks that would otherwise return empty.
A vacant building has been “recycled” for use as a processing facility. There, inmates bale and prepare the recyclables for market.
“We recycled more than nine tons of steel cans and 15 tons of steel scrap in the first 30 days of operations,” said Carl Spires, the department’s recycling coordinator. “We believe we will recycle about 20 tons of steel cans a month once every institution is fully engaged.”
In addition to steel cans, the institutions collect steel scrap, office paper, computer paper, newsprint and cardboard. Department of Corrections’ officials believe that, through recycling, they can reduce the waste stream by 50 percent and significantly reduce disposal costs.