Milwaukee County House of Correction 

I.Q. [Innovation Quotient]: Award Winners

Mark Ratzmann

Milwaukee County House of Correction   

Mark Ratzmann


Innovation: Zero landfill initiative/recycling program

Two years ago, the Milwaukee County House of Correction launched its zero landfill initiative. The program includes robust recycling, compost and vermiculture efforts at the Milwaukee County House of Correction in Franklin.

“It’s a great program,” said Mark Ratzmann, correctional officer. “It’s good for the inmates, and it’s good for taxpayers in the community.”

In the first year, the program stripped down and replaced all the computer stations in the county and recycled the material for revenue.

Instead of the process costing $5 per computer, the department earned $10,000 in revenue and diverted landfill waste.

Inmates at the House of Correction have the opportunity to work in exchange for time off of their sentences. According to Ratzmann, inmates who work at least 24 hours in a week can earn one day off their sentence, which also saves taxpayer dollars.

The HOC collects electronics and devices from county agencies, and also improved the internal HOC recycling program.

“We set out recycling bins throughout the facility, and we’ve cut our dumpster pick-ups from three to two a week,” Ratzmann said. “That’s $17,000 in savings right there.”

Last month, the HOC received approval from the City of Franklin to begin composting, as well. The initiative will allow the HOC to compost using waste collected from places like the Milwaukee County Zoo.

The compost and the HOC vermiculture (worm farming) program support the Hunger Task Force farm and other nonprofit organizations like Zachariah’s Acres and Oconomowoc Groundworks. Worm castings and nightcrawlers are also donated to veterans’ healing camps and inner city youth fishing clinics.

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