Prisoners muck in to turn scraps into veges

17:00, Jul 29 2014
John Moore
GREEN THUMBS: John Moore checks out one of Mt Eden Corrections Facility’s worm farms.

Something unexpected is going on behind the walls of the country's busiest prison.

Mt Eden Corrections Facility has been running a Zero Waste To Landfill initiative since November.

A network of 200 on-site worm farms process food scraps generated by the almost 1200 prisoners and staff.

More than a million worms chew through everything from kitchen waste to shredded documents.

Their castings, or poo, are used as fertiliser for the prison's garden where vegetables are grown in buckets.

The produce is used in the prison kitchen.


The environmental hub is set up on a stoney, unused lot which looks more like a disused car park.

It's the only one of its kind in New Zealand and was a winner in the Environment Ministry's Green Ribbon Awards this year.

But it's not just about benefiting the environment.

Prisoners are learning valuable skills that will help them lead constructive lives once they leave, project leader John Moore says.

"It teaches them a lot of life skills like time management.

"And they're learning to feed themselves if not their families. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that," he says.

Only a small number of prisoners are able to take part in the popular initiative, Moore says.

They've been able to grow herbs, broccoli, salad vegetables and even chillies in the garden.

Fruit trees have also been planted and Moore has set up beehives. The honey is sold and the proceeds donated to charity.

Moore is keeping things simple for now but has ideas on how to grow the project.

Some of the produce could be given to organisations such as the Salvation Army or Auckland City Mission, he says. "We're also looking at having it available for prisoners' families to pick up at a reasonable price."

Part of the plan is to extend it to local businesses.

"We'd like to work in partnership with some of the organic restaurants and cafes around the place.

"They can bring their organic waste to me and we can grow specific vegetables for them.

"I would also like to see the public's perception of the prison change so that they don't necessarily see it as just being a bad place but that good things are happening," he says.

The whole recycling system is portable and can be relocated if the space is needed in the future.

It's a good example of what can be achieved in an urban environment, Moore says.

Central Leader