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Worms are the winners

Published: 16 May 2012

A new "underground‟ local partnership is helping to make the new Southern Queensland Correctional Centre (SQCC) the greenest prison in the State.

Instead of putting it in landfill, prison operator Serco is sending its compostable waste to be gobbled up by the worms at Eco Valley Worm Farm. The worms love it all, even the prison‟s biodegradable cornstarch food containers.

Prison Director Mark Walters said the initiative is part of the prison‟s commitment to deal with all of its waste in a sustainable way. "Serco‟s aim is for none of the prison‟s waste to go to landfill. SQCC has been designed to be the most environmentally sustainable correctional centre in Queensland and we want our practices to benefit future generations in the Lockyer Valley."

Surprisingly, the waste Serco that gives to Eco Valley only goes a little way towards satisfying the worms‟ appetite. The farm holds millions of worms, which eat their own weight in food daily, says Greg Wallace of Eco Valley. "They go through four to five tonnes a day. We farm four types of worms, three types are bred for composting and the other is for fishing bait but they will eat basically everything."

He endorsed the new partnership with Serco, saying "it's a win-win situation for both of us. I get some material to feed my little critters and the prison has a cost effective way of disposing of its compostable waste."

Other sustainable practices at SQCC include a refuse sorting centre where prisoners work on a daily basis. Director Mark Walters explained how it works. "Prisoners sort the refuse into groups such as cardboard, plastic and paper. Any broken items which are suitable for repair are fixed and reused. Others go to be recycled off-site. The process has real educational benefits - all of the offenders who work there have completed a qualification in sustainable work practices. They believe in the work they do and recognise that their contribution is helping to reduce waste and unnecessary pollution."

Once the cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and metal has been sorted by the prisoners, it will go to Gatton‟s non-for-profit recycling group, Anuha Services, who were Serco‟s first choice when it came to selecting an organisation to process its recyclable material.

Anuha Services provide employment opportunities to people with a disability through their recycling facility and Cottage Industries operation. The group also provide in-home support to enable people with a disability to live at home as independently as possible.

Mark Walters applauds the new venture. "It‟s wonderful for Serco to be working in partnership with Anuha. Not only do we have a cost effective way to manage our waste but we are also supporting an organisation that provides a valuable service to the community.

"We are very excited about the partnerships we have made since moving into the area and look forward to what will be achieved in the future."