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Recycling While Camping: The What, When, Where & How of It

Recycling While Camping: The What, When, Where & How of It

We all know that recycling is important and is an eco-friendly thing to do.  We know that recycling has a positive environmental impact. But recycling while camping can be a challenge.

Many people on camping trips use plastic bottles, plastic bags, paper goods, and plastic cutlery. For many, the convenience factor is key. But how can we reduce waste while camping? In today’s post, we’ve got ideas to share that we hope will make it easier to leave no trace and feel good about the beneficial impact we can all have on our environment.

Let’s dig in!

How Can We Reduce Waste While Camping?

There are many ways to reduce waste when we’re camping.  The less waste we have, the less recycling and garbage-dumping we need to do. So, let’s take a look at the three simplest ways to reduce waste.

Buy a Reusable Water Bottle

The amount of waste from plastic bottles is absolutely astounding. One of the best ways to have a lasting impact on the environment is to carry your water in a reusable bottle.

Hundreds of plastic bottles requiring recycling

Plastic water bottles have a devastating impact on the environment. Refilling reusable drinking bottles helps tremendously with this problem. It also saves you lots of money!

There are many different types of reusable water bottles on the market. Look for a BPA-free product and grab them in your favorite colors. Most will keep your drinks far colder than plastic will!

Contigo Autoseal Chill Stainless Steel Water Bottles, 24 Oz, SS/Monaco & Monaco, 2 Pack
  • THERMALOCK double-walled vacuum insulation keeps drinks cold up to 28 hours
  • One-hand-operated AUTOSEAL button seals the lid between sips to avoid spills and leaks
YETI Rambler 18 oz Bottle, Vacuum Insulated, Stainless Steel with Chug Cap, Harvest Red
  • Get to drinking faster with the Chug Cap. It just takes a quick half-twist of the TripleHaul Handle to open and then you’re good to go, making it...
  • This Double-Wall Vacuum Insulated water bottle has the power to keep your water cold (or coffee hot) until the last sip
Nalgene Outdoor HDPE Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle, Plastic, 32 oz ,Blue
  • BPA free, made using the finest plastics and metals
  • Great for use in both outdoor and indoor activities

And don’t forget the little ones!

SIGG - Kids Water Bottle - Jungle Train - Leakproof - Lightweight - BPA Free - Aluminum - 10 Oz
  • 100% LEAKPROOF: Fear not! This is a spill proof water bottle for kids, even with carbonated drinks Plus, its protective cap prevents dirt from getting...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT & DURABLE: This water bottle for kids was designed with light yet robust aluminum Making it easy for them to carry it to school or their...
SIGG - Kids Water Bottle - Glow Moon Dinos - Leakproof, Lightweight, BPA Free - Aluminum - 13oz
  • 100% LEAKPROOF: Fear not! This is a spill proof water bottle for kids, even with carbonated drinks. Plus, its protective cap prevents dirt from...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT & DURABLE: This water bottle for kids was designed with light yet robust aluminum. Making it easy for them to carry it to school or their...

There’s no shortage of choices of styles, colors, and materials. This is one of the best things we can do for our environment. It also makes recycling while camping a whole lot simpler!

Once you have your refillable water bottle, you’ll of course want to fill it with water you know is safe to drink. Check out our post that shares how we safely drink the water from our RV’s onboard freshwater tank: Want Safe Drinking Water in Your RV? Get an Acuva.

Store Food in Reusable Containers

This is an action you can take before even leaving home. The foods you take along with you on your camping trip can be pre-packed in reusable containers, significantly reducing your trash and recycling at the campsite.

Most people tend to store food in products like ziplock bags. These types of food storage bags are among the most common types of single-use plastics along with water bottles. Reducing the use of any single-use plastics means you’re benefitting the environment AND your budget!

There are as many different options for food storage containers as there are for reusable water bottles. Choose your favorites, pay once, and stop buying plastic bags.

32 Piece Food Storage Containers Set with Easy Snap Lids (16 Lids + 16 Containers) - Airtight Plastic Containers for Pantry & Kitchen Organization - BPA-Free with Free Labels & Marker
  • Top Notch Kitchen Organization - This 32 piece set includes 16 food containers with 16 lids along with reusable labels and marker.These space-saving...
  • Size Variety - These air tight containers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes for all your storage needs. Includes (3) 35oz rectangular...
Qinline Reusable Food Storage Bags - 24 Pack BPA FREE Freezer Bags(8 Reusable Gallon Bags + 8 Leakproof Reusable Sandwich Bags + 8 Food Grade Snack Bags) EXTRA THICK Reusbale Lunch Bag for Salad Fruit
  • ♻REUSABLE & FOOD GRADE MATERIAL: Made of food-grade PEVA material, Qinline reusable storage bags are non-toxic, save our planet and save your money.
  • ♻LEAK-PROOF & ESAY SEAL: The reusable lunch bags feature an upgraded closures sealing technology that is more sealed, leak-proof, waterproof and...
Lille Home Premium Stainless Steel Food Containers/Bento Lunch Box With Anti-Slip Exterior, Set of 3, 470ML, 900ML,1.4L, Leakproof, BPA Free, Portion Control, Green
  • Leakproof and Eco-Friendly: Made of premium stainless steel and BPA-free, non-toxic materials. Airtight lids preserve freshness and prevent spills....
  • Space-Saving and Non-Slip: Three different-sized containers nest inside each other to save space. Non-slip exterior prevents slipping and provides a...

Buy Reusable Camp Dishes and Cutlery

We get it. The simplicity and convenience of paper plates & bowls and plastic cutlery seem to go hand-in-hand with camping. But the waste created by this convenience is considerable.

If you live in your rig full time, as we do, you likely own dishes and cutlery. But for part-time campers, paper products are enticing.

Instead, buy a set of camp dishes and inexpensive cutlery and save them just for camping. You’ll have less to recycle and you’ll be saving SO much money in the end! Some are even made from recycled materials.

And yes – we know water is scarce when we’re boondocking. But if you wipe the excess food scraps out of your dishes before washing them, you’ll need very little water to complete the task. Some people even use a spray bottle of vinegar & water!

Wheat Straw Dinnerware Sets, 28PCS Plastic Plates and Bowls Sets College Dorm Room Essentials Dishes Set with Cutlery Set Microwave Safe (Colorful)
  • Value Pack: You will get wheat straw tableware set (4 x plates, 4 x cups, 4 x serving bowls) and 4pcs cutlery set include knife, fork and spoon, they...
  • Versatile Use: An ideal choice for daily use at BBQ, picnic, camping trip, dorm, school or office. Make your meals more colorful and appetizing with...
Earths Dreams [18 Piece] Dishes Set for 4 - Reusable Melamine Dinnerware Sets - Elegant Bamboo Design Plates and Bowls Sets w/ 1 Bonus Lid & Saucer - Conveniently Dishwasher-Safe Dinnerware Sets For 4
  • PLATE SET FOR 4 - Elevate your dining experience with our stylish bamboo-printed plates and bowls kitchen set. This 18-piece melamine dish set for 4...
  • STYLISH VERSATILITY - Go from casual family dinners to formal affairs with ease using this durable melamine plate and bowl set. Ideal for home,...

How to Handle Recycling While Camping

Now that we’ve looked at the three biggest sources of single-use recyclables and talked about alternatives, let’s take a look at how to handle the recycling that remains.

Use Campground Recycling Facilities

Many campgrounds, including those in national and state parks, offer recycling bins where you can sort your recyclables and deposit them into the appropriate bins.

Gather Your Recyclables Daily

Keeping all of your recyclables sorted during a single day is a whole lot easier than trying to sort it all out at the end of a camping trip. 

The easiest way to do this is to simply collect your recyclables in reusable bags or recycle grocery store bags. You can recycle them at the end of each day if there are bins near your campsite.

This isn’t helpful, though, if you’re boondocking or camping far from available recycling bins. In this case, you’ll need to hang on to your recyclables until you get to a recycling facility. We’ve got lots more information in our post on boondocking tips!

We recommend using either a plastic bin with a secure cover (if you’ve got the storage room for a bin), a soft-sided container with a lid like those we’ll link to below, or a large trash holder like the famous “Trasharoo” that’s popular with outback campers. (As always, though, if you’re in bear country, follow the instructions regarding trash and food!)

Note that the first soft-sided container linked below has two sides for two separate bags – one for your garbage and the other for recyclables.

Trailersphere Collapsible Bin Trash & Recycle/Utility, Perfect for Camping, Laundry, Storage and Garden, Waterproof Vinyl and Tear Resistance, Trash and/or Recycle, Two 13 Gallon Bags
  • TRASH / RECYCLE DIVIDER (removable): We make the only collapsible bin on the market that one side is for trash and the other is for easy disposal of...
  • LID STORAGE: Sophisticated design offers built-in storage at the lid for quick access to extra trash bags or small tools.
Coghlan's Deluxe Pop-Up Trash Can, Spring-loaded Collapsible Garbage Can for Camping, 24 x 19 inches, Heavy-Duty 600D Polyester, 29.5 Gallon, Green
  • Spring-loaded steel frame collapses flat when not in use
  • Features 4 alligator clips to secure garbage bags
Trasharoo Spare Tire Trash Bag BLACK
  • TREAD LIGHTLY - You can haul away all the trash you accumulate in a weekend and maybe even make the trails a littler cleaner as you go.
  • HIGH QUALITY - Made from high quality 900 denier canvas with wide buckles and a heavy-duty attachment to your existing external spare tire.

We hope some of this helps as you enjoy your camping adventures, while taking seriously the commitment of all campers to leave no trace. After all, the more we care for the environment, the more we’ll be able to continue to enjoy it as we do.

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