Maximum security prisoners launch recycling scheme at Lotus…


Hardened criminals have turned ardent recyclers in Queensland’s biggest prison recycling program that is so successful it has caught the eyes of other jail program managers.

Lotus Glen Correctional Centre near Mareeba, west of Cairns, houses some of the state’s most notorious prisoners.

Over the past year, maximum security inmates have been sorting and recycling material inside the prison, including thousands of milk bottles, soft drink cans, tins and cardboard.

The program has saved 50 tonnes of rubbish each month from landfill, including 200 kilograms of food waste a day.

Program supervisor Larry Guilfoyle said the initiative was having an enormous impact on the prison’s environmental footprint, with inmates collecting and sorting 700 kilograms of rubbish each day, including 500 kilograms of food waste.

Prisoners sorting out rubbish

The program employs 32 prisoners, who are supervised throughout the sorting process.  (Supplied: Queensland Corrective Services)

He said all waste from the men’s prison had previously ended up in landfill, including 4,000 milk bottles every week.

“We were getting nine large industrial bins picked up three times a week and that’s now been reduced to two bins, three times a week,” Mr Guilfoyle said.

“The prisoners are completely invested in it, they love it, they get a sense of worth and value out of it.

“Our goal is a zero waste.”

A hand holding food waste

Food waste is recycled to fertilise the prison’s crops, including bananas.  (Supplied: Queensland Corrective Services)

Most items are sent to recycling centres in Cairns and Brisbane, including milk bottles, food waste, clothing, textiles, old electrical equipment, cans, bottles and mattresses.

They are then repurposed into usable and sellable goods.

A close-up of rubbish

The prison has recycled seven tonnes of mixed plastics since September last year. (Supplied: Queensland Corrective Services)

Since September, the prison has recycled 122,000 aluminium cans, 118,000 milk bottles, seven tonnes of mixed plastics and $300 worth of prisoner clothing each day.

About 400 old mattresses have been turned into underlay for housing and 180 tonnes of food waste has been diverted from landfill, with the prison estimating a saving of $450,000 in waste removal costs.

Program builds skills

More than 70 per cent of Lotus Glen’s 450 prisoners are Indigenous.

Mr Guilfoyle said the recycling program employed 32 prisoners, who were supervised throughout the sorting process.

A drone shot of a prison

The Lotus Glen Correctional Facility houses more than 400 prisoners. (Supplied: Queeensland Corrective Services)

He said inmates were learning new skills in waste management and the potential for formal qualifications was being explored.

“A lot of our prisoners come from remote communities and there’s opportunity with mining and councils and others for them to go back and get worthwhile employment and provide something back to their local communities,” Mr Guilfoyle said.

“These guys love to give back to the community, they get a sense of worth and value out of it.”

A Corrective Services spokeswoman said it was the biggest prison recycling program in the state with other prisons watching closely and eager to replicate the success.

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