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ODRC CONTACT: David Gray, NCI, (740) 732-5188, ext. 2003
OHIO EPA CONTACT: Erin Strouse, (614) 644-2160

Scrapping and Saving:
NCI Composts Food Waste, Models Significant Savings Nationwide Thanks to ODRC, Ohio EPA and Local SWMD Partnership, Grant

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) Director Gary C. Mohr and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Director Scott J. Nally unveiled a new cost-cutting composting system and forward-thinking food waste recycling management program today at the Noble Correctional Institution (NCI), 15708 McConnelsville Rd. in Caldwell. The innovative system, the first of its kind to be used in a U.S. prison setting, is the result of the state’s partnership with the SouthEastern Ohio Joint Solid Waste Management District (SWMD) and has set the standard nationally for other correctional institutions while promising significant savings statewide.

“The desire to cut costs and ODRC’s commitment to implement green initiatives became the catalysts for exploring alternative food waste management methods,” said Director Mohr. “We are in the process of requesting more equipment to duplicate this in strategic locations all over Ohio, and we anticipate saving taxpayers more than a half million dollars while reducing our institutions’ largest waste stream, food scraps, in the most economical way.”

NCI’s food waste stream totals 676 tons per year and was previously transported to and disposed of in a landfill at an approximate annual cost of $60,000. Landfilling and transportation costs have risen more than 65 percent since 2004. NCI expects within four years, it would spend nearly $260,000 to dispose of food waste.

“Ohio EPA is focused on identifying and creating partnerships with large food generators, like prisons, hospitals, universities and grocery stores, and helping them develop and implement ‘zero waste’ strategies,” added Director Nally. “By collaborating with state and local entities with a common goal, this shared services concept at NCI models how we can be more efficient with our waste and save money at the same time.” At nearly 26 million tons generated each year, food scraps are the third largest segment of the U.S. waste stream by weight going into landfills and the least recovered type of waste stream.

To help recover and redirect NCI’s food waste, a $175,000 grant was awarded in 2012 to the SouthEastern Ohio Joint SWMD from the state’s Recycling and Litter Prevention program. ODRC also contributed $30,465.

“These funds purchased two in-vessel, state-of-the-art composting units and one food waste pulping/dewatering unit to convert food waste into high-quality organic compost to use at NCI,” explained the SWMD’s District Coordinator, Robert Reiter. After the units were authorized by Ohio EPA and installed, the units began operating daily in January 2013 without adverse environmental (air or surface water) impacts.

“There are other benefits, too,” said NCI Warden Tim Buchanan. “The program is providing skilled training for inmates, and we expect to offset the facility’s annual purchase of non-organic fertilizer for our horticultural, landscaping, gardening and lawn maintenance programs.”

The anticipated 20 tons a year of compost created by this project at NCI will be primarily used on the institution’s grounds, greenhouse and flower and vegetable gardens. Any excess compost will be offered at no charge to other state departments, agencies and institutions for similar uses.

Ohio’s correctional facilities dispose an estimated 13,520 tons of food waste each year at landfills – that’s 676 semi-truck trailerloads stacked end-to-end more than eight miles long. At approximately $100/ton for transportation and waste disposal, the state spends nearly $1.4 million per year to send food waste from its correctional facilities to landfills.