Pris­on­ers muck in to turn scraps into veges

Central Leader - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Some­thing un­ex­pected is go­ing on be­hind the walls of the coun­try’s busiest prison.

Mt Eden Cor­rec­tions Fa­cil­ity has been run­ning a Zero Waste To Land­fill ini­tia­tive since Novem­ber.

A net­work of 200 on-site worm farms process food scraps gen­er­ated by the al­most 1200 pris­on­ers and staff.

More than a mil­lion worms chew through ev­ery­thing from kitchen waste to shred­ded doc­u­ments.

Their cast­ings, or poo, are used as fer­tiliser for the prison’s gar­den where vegeta­bles are grown in buck­ets.

The pro­duce is used in the prison kitchen.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal hub is set up on a stoney, un­used lot which looks more like a dis­used car park.

It’s the only one of its kind in New Zealand and was a win­ner in the En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry’s Green Rib­bon Awards this year.

But it’s not just about ben­e­fit­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Pris­on­ers are learn­ing valu­able skills that will help them lead con­struc­tive lives once they leave, project leader John Moore says.

‘‘It teaches them a lot of life skills like time man­age­ment.

‘‘And they’re learn­ing to feed them­selves if not their fam­i­lies. I get a lot of sat­is­fac­tion out of that,’’ he says.

Only a small num­ber of pris­on­ers are able to take part in the pop­u­lar ini­tia­tive, Moore says.

They’ve been able to grow herbs, broc­coli, salad vegeta­bles and even chill­ies in the gar­den.

Fruit trees have also been planted and Moore has set up bee­hives. The honey is sold and the pro­ceeds do­nated to char­ity.

Moore is keep­ing things sim­ple for now but has ideas on how to grow the project.

Some of the pro­duce could be given to or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Sal­va­tion Army or Auck­land City Mis­sion, he says. ‘‘We’re also look­ing at hav­ing it avail­able for pris­on­ers’ fam­i­lies to pick up at a rea­son­able price.’’

Part of the plan is to ex­tend it to lo­cal busi­nesses.

‘‘We’d like to work in part­ner­ship with some of the or­ganic restau­rants and cafes around the place.

‘‘They can bring their or­ganic waste to me and we can grow spe­cific vegeta­bles for them.

‘‘I would also like to see the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of the prison change so that they don’t nec­es­sar­ily see it as just be­ing a bad place but that good things are hap­pen­ing,’’ he says.

The whole re­cy­cling sys­tem is por­ta­ble and can be re­lo­cated if the space is needed in the fu­ture.

It’s a good ex­am­ple of what can be achieved in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment, Moore says.

Photo: EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Green thumbs: John Moore checks out one of Mt Eden Cor­rec­tions Fa­cil­ity’s worm farms.

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