Healthcare Sustainability Specialist Dee Taylor
Director of Environmental Services Derrick Turner
New dad Derrick Turner and mother-of-two Dee Taylor, professional colleagues, were my hosts for a recent tour of Parkridge Medical Center in Chattanooga. They showed me how efforts to promote recycling and safe waste disposal at the hospital have become part of everyday routines. Technicians no longer throw away sterile equipment packaging and nurses don't wash leftover medicine down the drain. Instead, the efforts through waste provider Stericycle have kept 160,000 pounds of recyclables out of the landfill in just a year's time. And fewer bags of waste go to incinerators, where the Environmental Protection Agency must closely monitor air quality.
Because of the Parkridge efforts, it has qualified to participate in the nationwide Healthier Hospitals Initiative. Turner, the Director of Environmental Services, said both the bottom line and environmental health are good reasons for more hospitals to get involved. “I’d say for any other hospitals that are considering doing
this they just have to think of it as saving the earth, helping the
environment, saving potential patients, because whenever they are breathing
those things in, pollutants in the environment, that could be a potential
patient coming in 10 years from now, who knows?”
Taylor said her work as Healthcare Sustainability Specialist with Stericycle has prompted her own family to recycle at home, and that if she forgets to put things in the right place, her 9-year-old and 17-year-old are there to remind her. Taylor sees long-term benefits in both the hospital programs and the related educational efforts. "We've got to do the right thing for our kids. Ten years from now, what's it going to be? That 160,000 pounds of recyclables that we've kept out of the landfill, if we keep putting it into the landfill, eventually, where are we going to put it?"