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Monday, October 7, 2013

Prisons: Valuable Resource for Recycling Refinement Systems?!

Closed TN State Prison
(filming site for The Green Mile)
Federal and state prison systems are a strong potential labor and facility resource for Recycling Refinement systems in the development phase. Within RR systems, existing recycling practices are evolved to maintain maximum material value with minimal energy expended.

Often prison grounds, both inside and outside the fence, contain underutilized buildings that may serve as recycling centers. With a captive pool of inmates eager to work, prisons are staged for promising public | private partnerships grounded in the WE Consciousness, where all parties benefit. Note the WE Consciousness was introduced in the ZWA Blog post, Zero Waste is a Team Sport.

When The Ohio State University achieved their incredible 98.2% recycling rate in the 2012 football season game, the state prison sorted, baled and sold the stadium-generated material.The OSU Zero Waste videoproduced by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, is a recycling program overview including the prison partnership.

Baled plastic film rebates
rival to exceed cardboard revenue
As documented in the ZWA Blog post, Source-Separation is Key to Maximum Recycling PROFITS, Elemental Impact is a strong proponent of on-site source-separation at the material generation point. Several years ago astute industry leaders launched a trend where in-house waste & recycling centers evolved into recycling profit centers; thus, the impetus of new industry standards. 

Adopting industry operating practices that improve the bottom line is necessary to maintain a competitive market edge and in alignment with management's fiduciary responsibility to corporate stockholders. The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, along with many industry trade associations, share recycling success stories and support those embarking on the zero waste journey.

Ei is embarking on a city-wide recycling network template that makes solid business sense for the entire value chain. Cost-effective labor and warehouse space are key to the network development. The ZWA Blog If it was easy, it would already be done!, introduces the city-wide plastic film recycling template pilot, a first step in an overall recycling network.

UNICOR | Ei 2011 lunch
With a federal penitentiary located near downtown Atlanta, Ei hopes synergies are abundant with UNICOR -  a division of the Federal Prison Industries that seeks to employ and provide job skills training to the greatest practicable number of inmates confined within the Federal Bureau of PrisonsThe Ei | UNICOR strong relationship began with Ei founder Holly Elmore met Bob Tonetti - UNICOR's Recycling Business Group general manager - at the 2010 Georgia Recycling Coalition Conference. 

In August 2011 the Ei Team, including Ei Chair Scott Seydel, met with the UNICOR folks in Washington D.C. and laid the foundation for future projects. Ei strategizes with UNICOR on expanding penitentiary recycling programs beyond the current electronic recycling offered. 

UNICOR program manager Frank Hurst and Holly keep in close contact, both excited to discover a way to work directly together. In July 2013 Frank referred his long-time UNICOR co-worker and friend Fred Roach to Holly. Retired from UNICOR after 26 years of service, Fred joined TRICOR - Tennessee's prison employment agency. Here is a quick TRICOR overview:

TRICOR tractor @ dairy farm
MissionTo prepare offenders for success after release.

Vision: We are a preferred source of skilled labor for the workforce in Tennessee.

Core Values:

  • Customer-focused culture
  • People first
  • Lead by example
  • Right today, better tomorrow
  • Self-sufficiency

After several months of conference calls and strategy sessions, a group of Ei Partners, Supporters and pals converged on TN in late September to meet Fred, tour TRICOR prison operations and explore synergies | opportunities.

First on the agenda was an introductory meeting in Chattanooga with TRICOR & Ei Supporter Republic Services to plant seeds for future discussions. Boyd Leake of Community Environmental joined Holly and Fred for dinner to prepare for the following two tour days.

The dairy farm cattle were
healthy and happy
The next morning the entourage visited the TRICOR Dairy Farm on the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikesville. With 180 cattle, the hardworking dairy farm supplies milk for the approximately 20,000 inmates in the statewide system. After the farm tour, the group toured the recycling practices in place at the prison along with the food waste composting site.

Following the BCCC tour, Ei Partner Amy Moreland of Heritage Interactive Services joined the group for dinner in Nashville to discuss the dairy farm tour along with an overview of the next day's multiple tours. Nathan Jones of American Textile Recycling Services attended the dinner to learn how textile recycling may play a role in future programs.

In the morning the group toured the impressive Cook Chill plant that prepares the food for the entire prison system. Executive chef | production manager Nigel Cox runs an efficient operation and ensures maximum quality food is prepared within the limited budget. Although cardboard recycling is in-place, there are abundant opportunities to create a recycling profit center at the Cook Chill plant.

Next was a visit to TRICOR’s TN Logistics Center where the state auto license tags are produced by female prisoners. The energy in the facility was amazing - it was evident the woman were appreciative of their employment status.

Boyd, Amy & Fred
@ tours end
The final official tour was the TRICOR scanning center within the TN Prison for Women where the group observed the ladies dismantling and scanning a vast inventory of documents for electronic storage. In addition, a call center is set-up and awaiting a contract with private enterprise to begin operations. In-prison culinary and cosmetology programs help provide the female inmates with valuable skills for employment upon their release.

With the tours complete, the group dined at the Nashville Farmers Market  where they discussed next action steps. Fertile seeds are planted for endeavors on many fronts within and in partnership with the TN prison system.

For the a pictorial recap of the impressive tours, visit the Ei FB album, 09-13 TRICOR TN Tours.

Prison systems are an opportunity to create powerful private | public partnerships where ALL benefit, especially the inmates. Prison employment programs prepare released inmates with the skills necessary to live a fruitful, law-abiding life. The third leg of the sustainability stool - social consciousness - provides the program stability required for success.

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