Surely you have heard the entire list of recycling tips by now. We all know what we’re supposed to do with our bottles and cans and milk jugs and juice boxes and whatever else comes out of our home to ensure they make a detour to the recycling depot and not the landfill. But what about the professional horseperson or barn manager—which items should you be recycling? You’re already recycling the number one thing produced day in, day out in your facility: manure. So what else is there? Plenty.
1. Shredded newspaper. Most newspapers are printed with soy-oil-based inks and are safe for compost. If you were a really voracious reader, you could mix it in with your stall bedding. What it’s really good for is soaking up urine when your horse does the unthinkable: pees in the barn aisle. (Seriously? You couldn’t have done that a minute ago in your stall where you wouldn’t be splashing my pant legs?) You don’t have to shred it much; it just makes it easier to sweep up and will break down just fine in your manure/compost bin. (And if you use vermiculture for your compost, the worms love newspaper.)
2. Socks and Nylons. Your average “tube sock” makes a great tail bag to keep your horse’s tail clean before a show, and nylons (the smaller the size, the better) can be used around the top of the tail to help smooth down the tail when a fake one has been added for thickness. Just a little vet wrap at the top will keep it in place. Also, when starting colts under saddle, you can tie socks with tennis balls or sand onto the saddle to mimic rider movement.
3. Shoes. Not yours, the horse’s. (Yours can be recycled by giving them to the dog as a chew toy.) There are many horseshoe artists, and they may be looking for free shoes to use in their projects. Or, if you prefer, take them to a metal recycler. Your region may have a database of local companies who accept metal for recycling.
4. Old Horse Blankets. There are many uses for old horse blankets—not just as a bed for the barn cat. In areas with a big horse population, there’s usually someone who sews and mends blankets and can always use clean, old blankets for patching. Or, if you’re crafty enough, you can use an old horse blanket to wrap around your water pipes for insulation. (You might not want to wrap them around your water heater though, due to flammability concerns.)
5. Binder Twine. If you know anything about braiding or weaving you can create some really cool mats for outside your barn office, barn or home door with collected binder twine. If you have enough twine, it can be braided into a thick rope for a variety of uses.
6. Old push brooms. Right next to your binder twine mat you can mount (with horseshoes even) your old brooms (cut in half and laid side by side if they are too wide) to recycle them into handy boot scrubbers, to cut down on mud you track into the barn…and have to sweep up later.
7. Coffee Grounds. Best used when wet, you can scatter them down the barn aisle before you sweep to cut down on dust. The grounds also compost well.
8. Plastic Picking Forks. You know the ones—they have a dozen or so plastic teeth and can be unscrewed and replaced on the handle when they are finally missing enough tongs to make you curse while picking stalls. But what do you do with that plastic fork that looks like the grin of a jack-o’-lantern? Cut off the remaining teeth and use them for marking rows in your garden. They are colorful and sturdy, just the item for the job.
9. Plastic feed bags. We know that some feed comes in paper, which can be recycled, but often, feeds such as cubes are delivered in plastic bags that have already been recycled once before. What to do with them? Use them to store and deliver compost; as a ‘flag’ on the end of a stick to help encourage forward momentum in the round pen; hang them along a pulley as a mechanical cow. You can also check with your feed supplier to see if they offer a credit for you to send them back to be re-recycled.
10. Old Barn Wood. Do you have an old shed or barn on your property? Call the yuppies! Using old barn wood as picture frames or interior decorating in the city is quite popular for the country-in-the-city-folk.
11. Tin Cans. If you nail them to the wall, you can hang your bridles on them. Just put a little electrical tape around the rough edges.
12. Tires. Tractor tires can make great feed tubs for hay. Make sure you take off the top edge so that the tub is open and horses can’t become trapped inside.
13. Inner tubes. Those bike and wheelbarrow tire tubes can be secured to posts and used to teach horses to tie. There’s enough stretch and an immediate give that will teach a horse to stop pulling.
14. Broken Leather. If you have a leather halter that’s broken, you can soak it and cut it into leather ties that are useful for tying on reins and bits.
15. Hoses. When that trusty water hose becomes too leaky, slit it down the side and use it to cover rail, wire or metal gates.
16. Milk jugs. For the horse that gets bored in the stall, put some grain in a milk jug and hang it from the ceiling. It makes a satisfying rattle and swings freely for hours of entertainment. (OK, minutes.)
17. Rocks. Yes, those big rocks that you picked out of your field. Put them in a feed bucket to slow down a horse that bolts its feed. Just make sure they are much bigger than your fist.
18. Rags. We all have them. They come from our closets full of old barn clothes… Clean rags are perfect for use in a first aid kit. In an emergency you will be glad to have them. (And while you’re at it, use an old lunch box or kit for your first aid items. A waterproof fabric cooler works well to protect the items inside.)
19. Coffee Cans. You’ll be hard pressed to find a barn without a coffee maker, which means there may be coffee cans about. If you tape the lid securely and cut a small hole in the top, you can use a can to dispose of sharp objects like needles after the veterinarian’s visit.
20. Hold a tack swap. This can bring barn members together for a great social event and recycle items that are no longer being used but still have lots of life left in them. Donate any items that are in good condition that are left at the end of the day to a local handicapped riding association or horse rescue group.
It’s worth noting that there are items you should not try to recycle at all: anything that has once contained a chemical or medicine (including homeopathic).
Finally, consider this. Recycling is about helping you save money and get the most out of the items you already have, so that you spend less on new products that have taken more energy to build and create. The more you recycle, the less “stuff” you buy. The less “stuff” you buy, the more horses you can have. Horse person math at its finest.