Introducing zero-waste horse bedding recycling

I must admit that the thought of recycling horse bedding made me frown at first. But having reviewed the information provided by the Canadian company Greenscene Agritek  (GSA), I came to the conclusion that this is a great concept that is worth to be adapted widely by the world wide equestrian community.

GSA’s general manager Paul Cross guides us through the world of bedding recycling.

horse bedding recycling

How does it work?

The basic principle is simple. Wood fiber horse bedding gets collected after use, and brought to our GSA-2000 bedding plant where it will undergo a process of  refinement, pasteurization and separation, during which we are able to remove the manure, urine and tiny fibre fines.

We can then bale it and sent it back to the yards (stalls) again.

Each GSA-2000 Bedding Plant processes the used wood bedding supply from between 1,500 and 3,000 horses and can recycle over 18,000 wet tonnes (WT) of used horse bedding annually (40hrs/week) to produce 9,000 bone dry tonnes (BDT) of recycled wood fibre horse bedding for resale. One of the main advantages of GSA’s proprietary process is that used horse bedding can be recycled over 20 times before it loses its capacity to absorb moisture, or by adding 10% new shavings/sawdust to the outgoing supply, the wood fibre horse bedding can be recycled indefinitely. GSA has created a sustainable initiative to combat two major global problems in the equine industry; the decreasing availability of good quality bedding material and the increasing cost of waste disposal.

 Over the next five years GSA has planned for 21 plants – 5 in Canada and 14 plants in the USA.  This five-year projection is based on the fact that horse populations are high and disposal options are disappearing, as ground water contamination becomes a major concern.

Who invented the bedding recycling process?

In 2007 Phil Wilford and Dr. Susan Thompson were talking about the shortage of good wood fibre bedding for horses. At the time, Phil was removing containments from soil and so she asked “could manure be removed from wood fibre horse bedding.” The cost of bedding was rising, good supply was often difficult to come by, and from a Green Infrastructure perspective: solving the global waste crisis from the piling up of manure of the estimated 59 million horses worldwide, was significant.

As reference each stalled horse uses around about one ton of used bedding ever month – that’s a lot of manure!!!!

It’s a perpetual supply and GreenScene proprietary solution can recycle wood fibre bedding numerous times successfully assisting in solve this waste crisis, while producing ultra safe bedding at an economical price to the equine community. In conclusion equine communities with co-operative co-owned plant can have a sustainable source of income and savings by developing a GSA bedding facility in their community.

greenscene agritek

The recycled bedding is even cleaner and more absorbent than the original wood bedding, how is that possible?

If you actually test bulk sawdust from the source or where it is piled up in bulk on farms, we have found that yeast and mold levels can be high, it was generally over 30% wet and has not been through a pasteurization process. Our bedding has been pasteurized, separated and then tested with accolades from University of British Columbia, as well as scientifically tested by labs such as Silliker with offices in Netherlands, UK and across North America which are FDA (US) and CFIA (Canada) approved labs.

Its more absorbent due to drying the bedding down further and includes some smaller fibres that “soak” up the urine better, in addition the process gently breaks down the fibres so urine is better captured within the molecular structure of the wood, making it more absorbent. In sawdust or shavings we find the small fibre fines (not dust) become much more absorbent in the overall bedding formula we produce.

Has the process in the plant some kind of environmental certification?

That’s a great question. We are working with UBC at the process level and ISO 17025 certification of the product via Silliker. As we move into co-ownership commercialization of Plants we will work within the relevant environmental certifications.

Did you look at getting the product cradle to cradle certified?

Our methodology fits the cradle-to-cradle philosophy of creating a holistic economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not only efficient but also essentially waste free. Are we there yet? No. However we are researching the benefits of certification in America. Once we build out more commercial facilities we will continue to strive to be environmentally conscious from start to end product.

recycled bedding

Where do you feel the equestrian sector could make the biggest progress from an environmental point of view?

Covered bins, better manure management, quicker removal offsite to regulated removal areas ~ such as a GSA recycling facility..

Current disposal methods include spreading on pastures and crops or composting into soil for farm and garden use, however, tipping fee costs are rising, and in many jurisdictions outdoor storage and landfill disposal are no longer permitted.

The equine industry needs to understand the importance of eliminating many of the industry’s environmental concerns; such as landfill disposal, contaminant leaching, odor control and methane off-gassing.

All to often we see it piled up – or have it shipped to another county with lesser restrictions, hidden behind racetracks, until someone shouts loud enough to make change.

One important side note is that manure should be sub categorized. Cattle and poultry manure is mainly liquid feces, high in nutrients and nitrogen, and should be treated differently to equine manure. Equine “manure” is really 80-90 % soiled bedding with around 10% feces “manure” which is more of a powder coating around un-digested grass and hay. This equine manure is more solid and has lower nitrogen levels.


photo-credits: Greenscene Agritek.