Hospital touts success of recycling program

Even food is being reprocessed - the hospital delivers composted food waste to the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center located 10 miles south of Farmington.

Leigh Black Irvin
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The San Juan Regional Medical Center has been actively working on reducing its carbon footprint since 2007, a hospital officials says, resulting in a reduction of 200 tons of waste taken to the landfill each year and a total savings of $2 million to the hospital.

Dave Turnbull, a materials manager with the San Juan County Regional Medical Center, talks about the hospital's recycling and repossessing program Friday.

Marketing Manager Roberta Rogers said the reprocessing program has been so effective that the hospital hopes to become a model for other organizations wishing to follow suit.  

“Hospitals are major energy users, so it’s important that we reduce our carbon footprint,” she said. “We’d like to help by sharing our experience with others in the community who want to become better corporate citizens.”

To reach its waste-reduction goals, the hospital established what it calls the Green Team in 2007, which is a group of hospital employees that meets quarterly to discuss waste-reduction ideas.

Those efforts have been so successful that, in April, the hospital received the 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award, receiving second place in the Resource Stewardship category, which recognizes projects that reduce hazardous and solid waste, manage sustainable materials, and demonstrate energy conservation, Rogers said.

Dave Turnbull, the medical center’s purchasing and receiving manager, explained how the Green Team came together, and how it changed the way the hospital deals with waste and improves energy efficiency.

Suzanne Gil, a clinical resource manager with the San Juan Regional Medical Center, points out reusable sharps containers where needles and other sharp materials is deposited after use on Friday.

“We came up with the goal of reducing waste going into the landfill by 30 percent, and we have consistently met that goal for the last four years,” he said. “That equates to about 425,000 reusable pounds of waste a year that doesn’t end up in the landfill.”

Working with Farmington Waste Management, Turnbull said the hospital has equipped each hospital department with several recycling/reprocessing bins to collect different types of waste. Bins are also placed in public areas of the hospital, so people visiting patients can participate in recycling efforts. The materials collected for reprocessing include batteries, shredded documents and cardboard, as well as single-stream recycling items such as aluminum cans.

Even food is being reprocessed. The hospital delivers composted food waste to the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center located 10 miles south of Farmington.  

Making the hospital more energy efficient is also integral to the Green Team’s mission, said Suzanne Gil, the medical center’s clinical resource manager.

“We recently replaced light bulbs with LED lights and are now using HD monitoring screens for laparoscopic surgeries, which is a huge energy savings,” said Gil, adding that the lighting is also being equipped with movement sensors so lights will automatically turn off when not needed.

Clinical Resource Manager Suzanne Gil and Materials Manager Dave Turnbull discuss aspects of the San Juan Regional Medical Center's repossessing program Friday.

Gil said the Green Team does not operate in a vacuum, and is actively soliciting suggestions from other hospital employees and the public on ways to save energy and reduce waste.

“The staff is totally on board — we’re getting a lot of participation and ideas from them,” she said, adding that the hospital is currently focusing on how to reprocess “blue wraps,” which are used to wrap up medical instruments in the operating room and are then discarded.

An integral part of the hospital’s efforts to become more energy efficient is a 6,000-panel solar farm currently under construction. It is projected to be operational in 2017.

“We’re really excited about the solar field,” Turnbull said. “That was a great Green Team initiative and will result in significant savings."

Turnbull pointed out stacks of “sharps containers” used to hold bio-waste such as used needles that used to be thrown away, but are now reprocessed.  

“I think back on all the things that used to go into the landfill that are now being reused,” he said. “It’s amazing what technology has done to reduce our carbon footprint, and it will be interesting to see what new technology will be developed that will help us in the future.”

Clinical Resource Manager Suzanne Gil talks about recycling cardboard boxes Friday at the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.

To find out more about San Juan Regional Medical Center’s reprocessing program or to provide ideas for the program, call Rogers at 505-609-2240 or email

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.