Can You Still Recycle While RVing Fulltime?

Here’s another question from our readers. It’s all at once a simple and complex issue:

Question: Recycling. Does living in an RV make this more of a challenge because of space constraints or is this a totally do-able thing? Facebook Reader

Our simple answer is:
If recycling is a priority for you then you’ll figure out a way to make it work on the road.

RV Parks & Campgrounds Generally Don’t Recycle

It won’t be easy. Most campgrounds and RV parks don’t offer recycling. Some do, but very few.

After working as camphosts, we can understand why.

At our last job we had two dumpsters, covered and with sliding side doors (we were in bear country).  On a daily basis there would be trash bags (or dog-poop bags) on top of the dumpsters or on the ground next to the dumpsters. The dumpsters weren’t full, people were just too lazy to slide open the doors to put their trash in.

If an RV park offers recycling, it’s a good bet there is someone cleaning up around it every day and ensuring the correct items are in the correct dumpsters. It’s a hassle and cost that’s easily eliminated by just not recycling.

If You Want to Recycle

If recycling is important to you, here are some tips and resources for continuing to do it while traveling by RV:

Unbox At The Store

If you purchase a bigger item at a local store, ask if you can unbox it right there and have the store recycle the packaging.

Don’t Burn

Hey - you’re camping and people have campfires right?

You might be tempted to gather up paper trash and burn it in the campfire ring - but just don’t. Your fire will emit smoke and noxious chemicals. It will also leave a mess for a ranger or camphost to clean up.

It’s just not a good idea.

Store ‘Em

Use dedicated plastic bins to hold your recycling while in a non-recycling park. The bins can slide under the RV while parked. While on the move stow them either in the truck bed or trailer ‘basement”.

If you choose the truck bed, make sure the bin is secured to the truck and use a bungee cord over the lid.

Don’t repeat our mistake of crop-dusting aluminum cans down a freeway.


Finding Recycle Centers

There are a few ways to locate recycling centers as you travel.

  • Call local garbage collection services
  • Check the city/county website
  • Ask park staff/camphosts
  • Use an App
  • Check this Recycle on the Road Facebook group
  • Look for a local Target store
  • Find a Best Buy for electronic goods
  • Use grocery store services (like these from HEB and Walmart) to recycle plastic grocery bags

If You Don’t Want to Recycle

Sound like a hassle?

Consider this - if you live on the road you also have to:

  • Figure out where to go
  • Find an affordable, safe campground with openings you can fit in
  • Make sure you can get internet coverage there
  • Check the weather forecasts so you don’t end up in a tornado
  • Keep track of your kid’s education
  • Make sure an income is still coming in
  • Keep up with RV & other vehicle maintenance and repair
  • Shop for groceries every 3-4 days
  • Worry about someone calling CPS
  • Deal with friends or family that don’t think you are raising your kids right

Now you’re supposed to carry your trash with you, using apps, making phone calls and special trips to get rid of it?

It’s easy to be influenced by green efforts in our society. Environmentalism has become a new religion, proselytizing through public school curriculum changes, community awareness campaigns, and advertising.

And recycling within that new religion?

You could almost characterize recycling as a way of atoning for all of our environmental sins.Thomas Kinnaman, Bucknell University Economist

The Minimalized Life

We get it.

This is a safe place.

It’s OK to admit that recycling is just one too many things to worry about while on the road.

Recycling is just one aspect of your total “carbon footprint”.

Let’s paint a fuller picture:

  • You are packing a family into less than 450 square feet
  • You are getting rid of vehicles
  • You aren’t driving every day
  • You are driving less on average
  • You are more likely to move with the weather so run A/C or furnace less
  • You are sharing bathrooms more
  • You are using way less water
  • You are more likely to be using solar power
  • You are more likely to be using LED lighting
  • You have purged your belongings down to a fraction of what you had before
  • You are buying fewer new things
  • You are enjoying, supporting and promoting State Parks, National Parks, and other natural resources

The ditched life is inherently more environmentally friendly.

Don’t believe us? Check out these posts from fellow fulltime RVers Wandrly and Gone With the Wynns. They come to the same conclusions.

As For Us

You’ve guessed by now, right?

We aren’t consistent recyclers.

We’ll do it if the park offers it but won’t make special effort to look for recycling centers outside the park. It’s just “one too many things” for us. Once we read that:

As a percentage of industrial waste, munincipal solid waste (MSW) is

We realized how small of an impact our efforts would have on the bigger issues of waste reduction overall.

Not to say we don’t agree with recycling, just that in the full context of our ditched life it’s not important enough for us to spend extra time and energy on.

Do You Do It?

Do you recycle while on the road? Leave a comment below and tell us about your process.

3 Comments Can You Still Recycle While RVing Fulltime?

  1. Picture of Jenni Jenni July 15, 2016

    I used to be pretty religious about my recycling efforts, but I’ve since learned that in a lot of cases it really isn’t all that “green.”  You have to consider the amount of water used to process recyclables into something new and useful.  It has to be hauled, nearly always by giant gas-guzzling truck MANY miles to a facility.  And someone has to be willing to buy it.  I’ve even read (though not verified) that often recyclables are shipped all the way to overseas plants…hardly seems sustainable or green.  Honestly, I think we make a bigger impact by living simply, as you said.  We found a lot of ways to reuse or “upcycle” items while on the road.  My favorite gifts from the kids came wrapped in a pretzel box and decorated with markers.  Recycle is the last word in the commonly used phrase “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” because it really should be the last resort, not the first thing we do to make ourselves feel okay about our consumption culture.

  2. Picture of Gretchen Gretchen July 15, 2016

    On our trip up and down the east coast this summer, we found (not surprisingly) that recycling was very common in campgrounds in the northeast and much less so the farther south we got. We encountered a couple of campgrounds with mandatory recycling, in fact (because of local ordinances I assume). Rationally speaking, I know that solid waste is way down on the list of environmental problems, but it still makes me wince to throw an aluminum can in the trash!

  3. Picture of Bev Parkison Bev Parkison January 27, 2017

    Thanks for the informative article about recycling on the road! This is one of my big concerns as I could never justify throwing away everything. With the resources available online and most communities having recycling, it is possible if this is a priority. We already have a recycling container with secure lid to use when camping.

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