Using Worms to Reduce Food Waste at Monroe Correctional Complex!

By Donna Simpson, Administrative Assistant 3 at Monroe Correctional Complex

The Monroe Correctional Complex is using worms to reduce food waste disposal costs while also providing a meaningful science and sustainability education and work program for offenders.

Currently at 5 million worms, the vermiculture program can process 10,000 pounds of food scraps per month, resulting in a cost reduction of more than 25%.  This translates into big savings for the prison, which previously spent $60,000 a year on food waste disposal before several sustainability initiatives began.

In January of 2010, staff and offenders developed the vermiculture program by collecting just 200 red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida) for three small breeding bins built by offenders. Very little funding has been invested in the program. As the worm population grew, new and improved models of worm bins were built by converting discarded barrels, old laundry carts, food carts, and recycled mattress materials. This indoor commercial-sized “Wormery” currently has more than 170 worm bins designed and built by offenders.  Seventeen of the bins are “flow-through” style.  The flow-through bins are primarily built from re-purposed materials by offenders, whereas they would typically retail at more than $5,000 each.

This program provides other benefits, including the by-products produced by the worms. Worm castings (worm manure) are a valuable, high-quality organic fertilizer sought after in the organic gardening market. The “Wormery” also produces 400 gallons of worm tea fertilizer per week. The worm castings and worm tea are used in the several acres of gardens at Monroe Correctional Complex.

Studies have shown that offenders who participate in horticulture programs while incarcerated have a lower rate of recidivism. Offenders develop important vocational and life skills. The worm technicians at MCC wrote an operations manual that is now available to assist other institutions in starting new vermiculture programs. They have also developed an extensive breeding program capable of exporting worms to other Washington institutions, agencies or schools. Thus far, Washington State Penitentiary and Stafford Creek Corrections Center have received worms as a result of this program.

 

Worm breeding bins

 

Flow through bins designed and built by inmates

 

Worm Breeding Bins

 

8 Comments:

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    […] of SPP programs and Mr. Nick Hacheney will highlight his experience as an inmate managing the vermicomposting program at Monroe Corrections Complex. Mr. Dan Pacholke, Co-Director of SPP and Assistant Secretary of WA […]

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    […] it came out of the prison itself: a (now-retired) guard and a few inmates took the first steps to compost food scraps with red wigglers back in 2010. What started as an idea with 200 red wigglers is now a commercial-scale composting operation […]

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    […] it came out of the prison itself: a (now-retired) guard and a few inmates took the first steps to compost food scraps with red wigglers back in 2010. What started as an idea with 200 red wigglers is now a commercial-scale composting operation […]

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    […] it came out of the prison itself: a (now-retired) guard and a few inmates took the first steps to compost food scraps with red wigglers back in 2010. What started as an idea with 200 red wigglers is now a commercial-scale composting operation […]

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  5. Six Million Worms: Sustainability Behind Bars | The Curious Autodidact

    […] sixteen minute talk about their worm program and how they spread the gospel of the worm to other facilities. 36 million tons of food waste is […]

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  6. Kumaran Palaniandy

    I think is a great idea for composting food scraps and I am going to start one as I do compose vegetable and fruit peels but I had no idea for food scraps.
    It is an excellent idea not only for inmates and prisoners but can be copied for juveniles in correct centers as they can acquire new skills.

    Reply to this comment ↓

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