Recycling Tips for Equine Veterinary Practices

Shortly after Crabbe and colleagues established an effective recycling program, they began reaping rewards beyond simply reducing their carbon footprint: First they received a local award for their efforts; then they were featured by the local media.

Photo: Thinkstock

The United States is the No. 1 trash-producing country in the world. We yield approximately 251 million tons of trash annually, yet recycle only 82 million tons. One equine practitioner believes this statistic is unacceptable and established an extensive recycling program for her Beavercreek, Oregon clinic. She shared her suggestions for how other practices can adopt similar programs during the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners' Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn.

In 2009, Barbara G. Crabbe, DVM, and her equine practice made the commitment to "go green." Shortly after establishing an effective recycling program, they began reaping rewards beyond simply reducing their carbon footprint. First they received a local award for their efforts; then they were featured by the local media. Clients began to recognize and appreciate their endeavor.

"Not only has our recycling program become one of our best marketing tools to date, it has had the additional benefit of contributing to a strong sense of teamwork among our employees," Crabbe said.

Did you know you can recycle baling twine? Try seting up a recycling bag next to where you store your hay.

Photo: Courtesy Dr. Barbara Crabbe

"The list of what you can recycle is endless," she continued, listing websites such as and the iRecycle app as tools for helping identify recycling options. For instance, did you know you can recycle baling twine?

"Set up a bag where you store hay to put twine," Crabbe suggested.

Further, some local hospitals will accept plastic syringe casings; Goodwill accepts all electronics, working or not; and plastic shavings bags can go into the recycling bin.

But where does a business like a veterinary practice start when they decide to go green?

First, Crabbe said, identify a recycling coordinator among the staff—someone who is organized, energetic, and committed. He or she should be in charge of researching what products can be recycled in your area and where. Start small, Crabbe said; focus first on items such as paper, plastics, glass, and aluminum cans. Once a well-oiled program is in place you can include things such as electronics, wood, metal, Styrofoam, and textiles.

Your recycling coordinator should also organize collection and transportation of recyclables. "We have found it best to set up separate bins or collection areas to minimize the amount of sorting necessary before transport," Crabbe said. "By having multiple collection areas in convenient locations, employees are encouraged to recycle rather than dispose of all items."

When it comes to transporting recyclables to facilities, many commercial waste companies offer services for specific items. Otherwise, "our doctors will occasionally transport items in the practice vehicles when drop-off locations are convenient to routes taken during farm calls," Crabbe said. "And staff members willingly transport items on their way to and from work."

Crabbe advised practices to also consider packaging material when making purchases (is it recyclable?), to computerize all medical records and radiographs (if you haven't already), and implement fluorescent (lasts nine times longer than standard bulbs) or LED (lasts 20 times longer) lighting.

Crabbe's practice participates in Adopt-A-Road programs.

Photo: Courtesy Dr. Barbara Crabbe

Practices can leverage their recycling efforts as marketing tools and to gain visibility within their communities. Crabbe said her team has succeeded in this area and expanded their program beyond clinic doors by:

  • Setting up recycling bins at horse shows and local equine events;  
  • Establishing a fund or scholarship through recycling returns (e.g., $.05 per aluminum can); and
  • Participating in a twice-yearly Adopt-A-Road program.

These efforts have "given us a great deal of visibility in the equestrian community and resulted in a significant amount of additional recycling," Crabbe said. "As we look to the future, we look forward to discovering even more sustainable business strategies we can adopt to help us 'go green.'"

About the Author

Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Alexandra Beckstett, Managing Editor of The Horse and a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as Assistant Editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse.

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