Recycling in our homes is gaining acceptance, but don’t forget to extend those good habits to your barn.
Part of the process of “going green” in the horse barn involves remembering to recycle and to dispose of products in an environmentally safe manner. Here are some tips:
• Reduce the amount of material that you have to recycle by buying less, buying items with less packaging, and buying larger sizes or refillable containers. Fly sprays, conditioners, and supplements are also more economical when purchased this way.
• Be creative about finding new jobs for waste products. Paper shavings bags are easily recyclable (don’t forget to remove the metal staples), and plastic shavings bags make excellent garbage bags. Reuse lumber from dismantled buildings or fences for other projects.
• Find a home for items that you wish to move along by listing them for sale on www.rochester. craigslist.org or for giveaway on www.freecycle.org. Donate useable but unneeded items to a horse rescue or therapeutic riding program.
• Create a separate area in the barn to collect hazardous waste Thermometers, paint, fluorescent bulbs, pesticides, and herbicides are all items that need to go to hazardous waste disposal. Monroe County has a Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Center (http://www.monroecounty.gov/des-hhw) where county residents can drop off waste. Many towns also designate one day a year when they will collect hazardous waste and take it to the center for you. A summary of local household hazardous waste programs is listed on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation website (http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8780.html).
• Common horse care products such as topical ointments, liniments, and shampoos that are not accepted at hazardous waste centers still need to be used and disposed of according to label directions. Many fly sprays and dewormers are lethal to birds and fish, so take care to dispose of these products in a manner that doesn’t contaminate food or water. Whenever possible, switch to products labeled as “biodegradable.” These will break down safely in the environment.
• When you do your spring barn cleaning and sort out all those vials of expired bute and old antibiotics from last year’s laceration trauma, don’t just fling them in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Medications in the septic/sewage systems eventually enter the groundwater and flow into lakes and streams. Waste water treatment plants can’t effectively remove these contaminants from our drinking water. Pharmaceutical pollution of our water supply is a growing environmental concern, and it’s unclear what the long term effects may be. Until a better solution is offered, place old drugs in a heavy plastic container with a tight fitting lid, such as a bleach jug, and put this out with your household trash. Tape the lid to ensure that children or pets do not have accidental access to discarded drugs. Some pharmaceuticals targeted for horses can be lethal to dogs or cats. Minimize your usage of antibiotic and hormone drugs, and administer them only under your veterinarian’s guidance.
• Replace mercury thermometers with digital thermometers. You will eliminate the risk of breaking a glass thermometer in your horse as well as exposing yourself and the environment to one of the most dangerous known pollutants. If you happen to break a mercury thermometer, pick up the droplets with a piece if heavy paper, like an index card. DO NOT touch the mercury or attempt to gather it with a broom or vacuum, which will simply scatter the droplets. Place the broken glass and the mercury in a lidded glass jar or tripled plastic baggies, and place in hazardous waste.
• Occasionally after treating a sick or injured horse, you may accumulate some medical waste such as “sharps,” the hypodermic needles used to administer medications intramuscularly. Anyone inadvertently punctured by a needle carelessly tossed aside is at risk of bacterial infection. It is safer to create a sharps container from a plastic jug. Label it and place any needles in the container directly after use. GVEC will be happy to collect your sharps container at a farm call, or you may drop it off at the clinic so that we can dispose of the contents safely and legally in our medical waste. With a little thought and effort you can create simple recycling and disposal practices for your barn that will promote a healthy environment for your horses, your family, and your community.