Back to the Land: Turning prison food waste into compost

image via healthylifestyleplus.comOn average, an American wastes a half pound of food daily. At Philadelphia’s Riverside Correctional Facility this translates into 150 pounds of food waste each day that is dumped into landfills. But thanks to a grant from the EPA, future food waste at the facility is destined for a different end.        

With a $15,000 grant from the Solid Waste Management Assistance Grant Program, the Philadelphia Prison System is implementing a pilot composting program at Riverside. Announced this past Thursday, the program will compost food waste from the facility as well as train inmates in managing the composting operation.

The composting program will bring obvious environmental benefits, like reducing landfill waste (saving the city of Philadelphia money) and producing compost for gardens and farms. The program is also expected to generate more compost than needed for the prison system’s greenhouse and gardening programs, presenting opportunities for partnerships with regional farms and gardens.  

The composting program isn’t the first green initiative at Riverside. In 2009, 45 solar panels were installed in a pilot program to provide hot water for inmates. This was the first large urban jail in the country to install the system.  

Find out more about composting at home from Philly Compost and check out this article from GOOD on Washington State's Sustainable Prison's Project, which has added a number of sustainable programs (including composting, organic farms, apiaries and low-flow toilets) to four of the state's prisons.  

-Liz Pacheco