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Recycling at Wheatfield Prison by Catherine Byrne

This action project looked at recycling and managing waste in Wheatfield prison. The student did it for the CSPE Junior Certificate exam and it was based on the concept of Stewardship, (care of the earth) and Rights and Responsibilities. He felt strongly about our right to a healthy environment and our responsibility to the earth. He chose this project because of his concerns about the environment and the benefits to our mental and physical health and our future.

The Green Schools scheme is from An Taisce, and awards a green flag, and he read their handbook prior to this project. We communicated with many people during this project, inmates, teachers, prison officers, both on the landings and those running training workshops. He had to involve them all so they would be aware of the project and so help to gather their suggestions, ideas and objections and to help with the survey.

The initial list of tasks included designing a questionnaire for each area in the prison, drawing up the questions, design a poster for the project, distribute questionnaires, contacting other prisons to see what they were doing about recycling, contacting recycling companies in Dublin, gathering information and suggestions from staff and inmates questionnaires, put results on to PowerPoint, invite staff, teachers, governors, inmates to slide show, and start discussion to see if the project is workable. The main task was to make and distribute the questionnaire. There were fifteen different questionnaires designed. Questions asked if people thought this scheme was workable, how much waste they threw out each week, if they would support a scheme to separate waste, and if they had any other ideas. After he designed the questionnaires and printed them off, he entered the statistics on the computer and illustrated bar charts. He showed the estimated amount of waste now and what could be achieved, on bar charts. He had to use his communication skills while interacting with the prisoners, officers, and teachers. He used computer skills in preparing the questionnaire, and in transferring the data to PowerPoint. He also used his analytical skills to gather the information received and reflect on it.

Facts he learnt were about the amount of waste that goes into the incinerator that could be recycled. He looked at possible solutions to this problem. Also he looked at pollution emissions which contribute damaging the ozone layer, which affects our wellbeing, health, and the world’s climate. He looked at people’s attitudes, habits and how they re prepared to change. His own awareness grew, and he learnt a lot about waste management. We found other prisoners were very interested in recycling, if we had a system to separate waste, and recycle and compost. It has been tried in other prisons around the country. He did this project because he takes personal responsibility for his own health and wellbeing, and in prison these issues become very important.

From the inside of a prison, one learns to appreciate the how precious the earth is, and how we are responsible for it.