A new recycling project at Maghaberry Prison is set to halve its waste costs in coming years.
About 30 prisoners sort plastic, tin cans, cardboard, newspaper, broken pallets and waste electric equipment, and the amount going to landfill has been slashed.
Their work station is a draughty structure within the prison grounds and the aim is to secure them work in the eco-industry upon release.
A conveyor belt smelling faintly of rubbish carries materials to be separated. Maghaberry uses 1,000 pints of milk a day – in individual containers.
Maghaberry governor David Kennedy said: “Recycling is incredibly important for the environment and it is also very important for the Northern Ireland Prison Service in reducing the cost of our landfill.
“It’s also a growing industry in Northern Ireland and already we have several employers who are offering positions for people who want to take a better road when they’re released.
“Ultimately, Maghaberry Prison is working to reduce reoffending by challenging people, and supporting them to change and this initiative is another way to achieve this.”
In its first six months of operation the project recovered 11 tonnes of scrap metal and 9.5 tonnes of plastics and paper – equivalent to the weight of 12 cars.
A material recovery facility or picking station, shredder and waste-baler were purchased for £150,000.
During 2015-16 Maghaberry spent £62,000 on skips and waste disposal and this cost has significantly reduced in 2016 / 17, with the aim of cutting waste costs by half in the coming years, the prison service said.
So far 2,000 bags of briquettes have been produced from shredded paper, with many donated to local charities.
Inmates who sign up to the project can also gain NVQ qualifications, with a number being offered jobs with local recycling companies once their sentence is complete.
One, who gained a level 1 NVQ in manual handling, said: “The reason I got involved was because it keeps you out of trouble.
“You’re out working all day and I’d rather be doing something with my time.”
This year 36 men have been put through NVQ qualifications.
Tony Ladurner, a tutor with charity Extern who is involved in delivering the qualifications, said there had been some very good results.
“This project gives ownership to the prisoners; they own the project and they take pride in their work.”