Proper solid waste management is just one of the many intricacies involved in the effective management of a correctional facility, but the impact can carry a lot of weight-literally. Correctional facilities hold hundreds, sometimes thousands, of inmates. In the feeding, training and the day-to-day activities of each of these inmates, tons of solid waste are produced. As the New York State Department of Corrections has discovered, much of this waste is recyclable.
Solid waste programs are present in each of the 70 correctional facilities under the jurisdiction of the New York State Department of Corrections, and nearly every one of them now recycles. He state correctional facilities are charged with holding the state’s more than 71,000 inmates, in facilities from work camps on up to maximum security facilities.
Just as in many other states, the correctional system is directly impacted by state recycling regulations, such as the Solid Waste Management Act of 1988. This act made it mandatory for all state-regulated facilities to incorporate a recycling program into their solid waste programs. Then, in 1989, the importance of this Act was reinforced by the Governor with Executive Order 142, maintaining that all state agencies should begin recycling.
The initial recycling program included steel and aluminum cans, corrugated cardboard, plastic and polystyrene containers, as well as mixed office paper, textiles, mattresses and food wastes. It was initially a big jump into a recycling
program but many of these recyclables were being generated in the food service facilities and dining halls. As a result, they centered a large portion of the program on this area.
Each day, more than 200,000 meals are prepared within the New York State Correctional system and with each of these meals, recyclables are produced. Steel cans and corrugated cardboard are the top two recyclables generated by weight within this area. Many of the ingredients in these meals come stored in one-gallon steel food cans.
Steel cans are a natural choice to include in correctional system recycling programs as they use thousands each day and there is a stable market that has been in place for years to recycle them.
In a majority of the state correctional facilities, the steel cans are emptied and then rinsed in dishwater or cleaned in extra space in the dishwasher. The cans are then loaded into clear plastic bags, which are collected and stored.
There is also a food production unit within the system, which prepares the food for 30 prisons. Within this facility, the rinsing and crushing of the steel cans is automated, and the crushed cans from this unit are also stored for pick-up.
Once a week the stored cans from the system are collected and transported to one of eight regional processing facilities. At the processing facilities, the cans are baled and prepared to be sent on to steel mills to become new products.
Last year, the New York State Correctional System recycled more than 2,100 tons of steel cans. This is in addition to the 510 tons of steel recycled from machinery changes, refurbishments and scrap from vocational programs.
Steel is everywhere in correctional facilities from washing machines to steel appliances to steel cans. The buildings themselves are even built from steel.