WELCH, W.Va. — All the Federal Bureau of Prisons are required to have a recycling program, but the program at FCI-McDowell in Welch, W.Va., is receiving praise for going above and beyond — and creating savings for the facility.
The program started back in 2010 and has been creating a buzz around the facility and in the correctional industry.
“In the first quarter of this year  we’ve diverted 227,859 pounds of waste from the facility,” said M. Austin, recycling technician at McDowell.
The recycled material is benefiting not only the prison but also charity groups. McDowell uses an upcycle process, making use of recycled goods in order to create new materials or products that are better quality. They use this process with old linens and sheets in order to create toys like stuffed animals for the charity, Toys for Tots.
Austin explained that by using the upcycle process the facility is also able to make dog beds for rescue dogs, animals working at the facility and service dogs.
The recycling plant is approximately 200 ft. by 140 ft., according to Austin. The building also holds a carpentry vocational trade area. Correctional officials were not utilizing the building so when McDowell started housing inmates in 2010 the building posed the perfect location to house the recycling program.
The plant is open Monday-Friday where there are 90-100 inmates working, including salaried supervisors.
In 2011, from April to December, the recycling program has helped save the facility $108,000 in trash deliveries to local landfills. The recycling center is utilizing a food digester that creates 50 pounds of waste every 15-20 minutes. The food digester works by breaking the food down naturally with enzymes that turn the food into liquid — it can then be used as fertilizer and the leftovers are taken to the sanitation department, according to Austin.
“The program is not only benefiting by saving costs but the inmates are looking forward to working and it’s keeping them busy and educating them at the same time,” said Austin.
Another cost savings aspect at the plant is taking recycled scrub brushes and mops and repairing them for inmates to continue using at the facility.
The program is getting attention from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons and serves as an example of the possibilities for correctional facilities.