Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: A Guide to a ‘Greener’ Barn, Brought to You by Banixx

Barn trash piles up! Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

At a barn of three horses that are outside most of the time (in during storms), we use about 240 bags of shavings, 64 bags of feed, 12 dewormers, 10 supplement containers, and 120 bales of hay (240 strands of baling twine) per year. That is a lot of waste — and a barn with more horses equals more trash! The debris from all of that does not decompose quickly. Polypropylene baling twine takes 50 years to decompose. The “skinny” on baling twine: Natural fiber baling twine is less available and breaks easier than polypropylene twine, so farmers use the polypropylene twine more often. Some more ‘information’ — biodegradable plastics decompose in three to six months, whereas synthetic bags take several hundred years to decompose.

Yard Art by Ed Bauer from used horseshoes. Photo Credit: Shellie Sommerson.

Typical recyclable items in a barn

  • Feed bags – The bags are usually recyclable. The brown paper liners of feed bags make excellent paper wrapping for poultice wraps. The bags are also great to use as trash bags or storage bags and secure them with baling twine.
  • Brown paper packing from boxes (used as packing material for shipping) – Also great paper for wrapping for poultice wraps.
  • Baling twine – Made of polypropylene, 100% recyclable. It takes 50 years to decompose (or make a hammock out of it so you can relax after a long day). Polypropylene baling twine is NOT suitable to use for break-away tying unless you cut most of the fibers away (weaken it significantly); use natural fiber twine for that purpose!
  • Supplement buckets – Use for halter and lead storage at the gate of turn out areas, or as an electric fence cover, grooming buckets, keep fence and other repair tools in your feed cart.
  • Water tanks and feeders – Make great planters (plant flowers or vegetables).
  • Water bottles, Coffee cups, soda cans/bottles, and other beverage containers can be recycled with your regular household recycling.
  • Old tack and equipment – Reusable or recyclable pieces. Tack repair professionals often desire brass rings and buckles. Cloth is recyclable. Artists may want some of the parts and pieces.
  • Horseshoes – They make great yard art! Or recycle the metal at your local waste management.
  • Dewormer tubes – Cleaned up they make great dosing syringes, and the plastic is usually recyclable.
  • Farm implement type items, old fans – Recycle the metal.

Water tanks for above ground planters. Photo courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Elliott.

What is the “green strategy” at your barn?

Keep a bag, or bags, easily accessible for single-use recyclable items. If your recycling center only accepts items that are separated out by type, then use a separate feed bag for each type; if they accept mixed recyclables, they can go into the same container.

No recycling pickup at your barn? Trade-off with others for taking the recycling home. Be sure not to let it overflow; make it easy and convenient as possible for everyone.

In your vehicle traveling to and from the barn it is easy to accumulate ‘trash’ in your vehicle. A few grocery bags are a simple receptacle for keeping recyclables and trash separate without taking up much room.

Some additional tips:

Reusable cups that are washable – have a few so that you can swap them out for cleaning.

When you pull through the drive-thru for a quick bite, do you really need all that ‘stuff’? Ask them to give you only specific items (exactly what you need, not extras).

Consider having a baggy with utensils (spoons and forks) that you have on hand for when you need them. Did you know that most ‘disposable’ utensils wash well in the dishwasher so you can reuse them?

Large venues:

Horse show venues are another challenge! Heaps of trash, but is it really trash? Did you throw those water bottles in the trash? If recycling bins were available at shows/events, would you use them? Horse show management teams are often stretched with the resources they have, so adding additional tasks, such as recycling, with its tough logistical issues, is often avoided. The logistical challenges being transporting the recyclables to the proper location from the show venue when the show is over.

Start small and build up! If your area has a recycling center that pays for particular recyclables like aluminum, then contact your local 4-H or Pony Club and suggest a recycling fundraiser.

What works for you? Share your tips! We ALL will benefit!

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