The Maine State Prison in Warren will receive one of three Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence, winning the category of Stewardship, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection announced in a Nov. 29 press release.

In the past year, the prison introduced a large-scale sustainable recycling and composting program. Prior to this initiative, all organics and unsorted trash were dumped into a container and hauled to the local transfer station. All the compostable byproduct generated by the 3,200 daily meals prepared at the prison was being wasted. This process neglected to capture valuable organic materials and other recyclable products.

In collaboration with others, the prison transformed a small-scale, struggling effort in composting to the current system, which composts 600,000 pounds of organics annually. Working in tandem with the compost and recycling program is the sustainable agricultural program, which produces 12,000 pounds of vegetables from three acres of previously unused land. This produce is used in the inmate dining facility and 1,000 pounds have been donated to the area food pantry.

In 2018, the Maine State Prison generated 47,000, 35-gallon bags of waste. Once sorted by inmates, who were educated as to the proper sorting and handling of this material, the result was a decrease to only 4,700 bags of non-recyclable material.

To date, the prison has recycled more than 170,000 pounds of non-organic materials and approximately 80,000 pounds of carboard. The entire program has removed significant amounts of material from the waste stream and saved the prison $100,000 in waste management annually.

Other Governor's Environmental Award winners were manufacturer MoInlycke of Wiscasset for Sustainability, and consultant Inland Technologies International of South Portland for Innovation.