Vermont’s correctional facilities compost nearly 11,000 pounds of food scraps each week. Annually, these correctional facilities keep 572,000 pounds of food waste out of the garbage. At the facilities, inmates separate coffee grounds, banana peels, and spoiled food before sending these items to compost facilities that feed the soil at farms and gardens throughout Vermont. Composting food scraps also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When food scraps end up at landfills, they produce methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. “We are very pleased to see Vermont Department of Corrections tackling the food waste problem—the single largest part of Vermonter’s trash. We hope this inspires others to donate, divert and compost to reduce landfill volume and methane gas production,” says Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Emily Boedecker.
In 2013, inmates at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF) proposed developing a recycling program. Bob Arnell, CRCF superintendent at the time, loved the idea and combined it with a composting program. This composting program became the first of its kind at Corrections. “We are proud to join other states and cities across the country whose correctional facilities are doing their part to reduce the amount of food scraps going to landfills and thereby slowing down the creation of greenhouse gases. We partnered with Vermont Buildings and General Services to get food scraps picked up at our first facility in 2013 and then added more facilities each year. The program has been going well. Now it seems strange to think we ever threw these food scraps in the trash,” says Bob Arnell, now working as the Vermont Agency of Human Services Correctional Facilities Operations Manager.
Solid waste management districts and haulers including Black Dirt Farm, Casella Waste Systems, Cloud’s Path Farm, Grow Compost, Myers Container Service, and TAM Waste Management have trained food service teams at the correctional facilities on the best practices for separating food scraps from trash. As a result, they are providing haulers and composters with very clean material. “Our kitchen staff have set up an easy system to collect food scraps and separate them from the regular trash,” says Northeast Correctional Complex Food Service Supervisor Bryan Mitofsky. “We are proud that instead of being wasted, these scraps are turned into something good for our farms. We also order produce from local farms to help close the loop.”