Road Trip Recycling: How and Where to Recycle While Traveling

Just because you’re on a road trip or vacation shouldn’t negate you from taking responsibility for taking care of our planet. It’s imperative that you partake in recycling as much as you can; just as you would at home. In that, you should learn how and where to recycle when traveling; albeit air travel, road trip, or even just driving around in your car.

Did you know the average American adult throws away approximately 75,000 to 120,000 pounds of trash in their lifetime?

Aren’t those figures of that trash fact are astounding! Quite frankly, I think they’re actually quite disgustingly appalling. This is precisely why we all need to put our best foot forward to protect our environment by recycling everything we can. Because each item we recycle won’t end up as useless toxic trash in landfills or our planet’s water.

We all need to help conserve our planet’s energy and resources while also minimizing the waste we put into it. But here’s the thing. We need to be conservation-minded ‘all of the time’, whether at home or away. It’s important to continue our conservation and recycling efforts even when we’re on road trips or vacation.

So, how do we DO that as roadtrippers or RV travelers? Let me count the ways. Let’s take a few minutes to learn how we can downsize our trash output. We’re going to show you several ways how to reuse and recycle on the road.

Road Trip Recycling: How and Where to Recycle While Traveling

Here’s another interesting trash fact. Vacationers and travelers tend to buy more consumables resulting in more packaging. Thus, more trash is being thrown away. However, not everything should just be tossed in the trashMore than half of the product packaging can now be recycled. But, it’s important to know the difference between what is actually trash versus what can be recycled.

“Just because you’re on vacation or traveling, shouldn’t excuse you from doing your part.”

 

Know what to RECYCLE, REUSE and what is TRASH

We’re all more familiar in the plastic bottle syndrome, however, there’s a lot more that

Ways to be proactive about what you buy. If we all band together, we can send a clear message to product manufacturers by not buying products packaged in swaths of plastic.

During your road trip, use your own coffee tumbler or water bottle. 

Ways to RECYCLE during your road trip:

    1. Learn about WHAT you can recycle
    2. Look for recycling drop off locations
    3. Curtail buying plastic bottles
    4. Say no to plastic bags
    5. Donate books at little libraries
    6. Don’t use plastic silverware

Ways to REUSE on the road:

    1. Take your own grocery bags
    2. Use your own water bottle or canteen
    3. Donate books and magazines (little libraries)
    4. Use apps, not maps
    5.  
 

Below are 10 ways to recycle, some of which also help with reducing and reusing.

1.    Use reusable bags instead of plastic. A weekly trip to the grocery store requires an average of 10 plastic bags to carry the entire load of groceries home. That is approximately 520 plastic bags per year for a single household. Rather than recycling the plastic bags, use reusable cloth bags that you can wash and reuse throughout the year.
2.   
5.    Recycle electronics. Even if you’ve tried everything you can to revive your electronic device, laptop or computer, don’t just dump it in the garbage. You can donate it to charities that can fix it up or send it back to the manufacturer that will end up recycling the body and parts for other products. Some ink cartridge manufacturers will give you a prepaid label to mail back used-cartridges to recycle. Look into the manufacturers of your devices and find out about their recycling programs.

 

If you don’t see recycling cans or dumpsters, check out Earth 911. Simply call 1-800-253-2687, or simply enter in the material you are trying to recycle along with the zip code you’re near and click search. It will point you in the direction of the nearest recycling center.

A great resource for recycling rechargeable batteries, old cellphones and at some locations, even single use or alkaline batteries is Call2Recycle.

Single-use batteries, such as AA, AAA, 9V or C or D cell, are by nature different, making their recycling process different than recycling rechargeable and cellphone batteries. All Call2Recycle drop-off locations accept used rechargeable batteries with most accepting used cellphones. Depending upon your location, select drop-off sites do accept single-use batteries.

Recycle when you CAN

As mentioned above, even if you do prefer buying commercially packaged products, you still can minimize your trash that ends up in the landfills. But of course, with that comes the responsibility of finding recycling bins or receptacles.

Unfortunately, recycling programs are not important in a lot of states or even municipalities. Why? Because recycling is expensive. Who’s going to foot the bill?

And that explains why many campgrounds and RV parks don’t provide recycling receptacles. But, that doesn’t mean, as RVers, that we can’t be conscious of taking care of our environment.

If you don’t see recycling cans or dumpsters, check out Earth 911. Simply call 1-800-253-2687, or simply enter in the material you are trying to recycle along with the zip code you’re near and click search. It will point you in the direction of the nearest recycling center.

A great resource for recycling rechargeable batteries, old cellphones and at some locations, even single use or alkaline batteries is Call 2 Recycle.

Single-use batteries, such as AA, AAA, 9V or C or D cell, are by nature different, making their recycling process different than recycling rechargeable and cellphone batteries. All Call2Recycle drop-off locations accept used rechargeable batteries with most accepting used cellphones. Depending upon your location, select drop-off sites do accept single-use batteries.

Many batteries contain toxic chemicals like mercury, nickel, and cadmium. If such batteries end up in a landfill, those chemicals can leach into the soil or water system. Always take rechargeable batteries to your nearest local recycling drop-off, which you can find at Call2Recycle. Although alkaline batteries are less harmful, homeowners should still deliver them to a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility for safe disposal.

There are hidden dangers tied to improper handling and disposal of batteries at their end-of-life. Many consumers are unaware of these dangers, which has led to a surge in fires at recycling and waste facilities across the country. A recent article in Resource Recycling surveyed 119 MRFs nationwide on the topic of lithium-based batteries entering their waste stream, with 50% of respondents seeing an increase in fires the past two years and 89% experiencing or suspecting fires caused by lithium-based batteries.

The bottom line: more awareness is needed to mitigate safety incidents.

The above reasons are the catalyst for the ‘Avoid the Spark. Be Battery Safety Smart.’ campaign. Centered on battery safety education and supported by industry groups devoted to batteries, electronics and power tools, the campaign seeks to make battery safety a shared responsibility that can keep communities and consumers safe.

Recycle when you CAN

As mentioned above, even if you do buy commercially packaged products that can be recycled, you’re still tasked with trying to find recycling containers and locations. And here’s the thing, recycling programs have become big business. It almost makes one thing if product manufacturers are in cahoots with recycling companies because now there’s such a demand for the latter.

Which, explains why many campgrounds and RV parks may not provide recycling receptacles or participate in a recycling program.

But, that doesn’t mean, as RVers, that we can’t be conscious of taking care of our environment.

Insist on not purchasing products wrapped or contained in plastic. Buy cooking oils, vinegar, and condiments in glass bottles instead of plastic bottles.

After buying alkaline batteries, remove them from the plastic package and place them in a battery storage box.

After buying nutritional supplements, transfer to a vitamin organizer box. That way, all of your vitamins are all in one place. Also, you can minimize storage space by getting rid of all the supplement bottles or containers.

Shop for dry foods and ingredients at bulk food stores or grocery stores if possible. If buying boxed and bagged dry ingredients, transfer to airtight containers. Then flatten all boxes, stack and neatly tie with twine or string as they can be recycled. Only burn boxes or paper products that do not have coatings.

Take your own reusable produce bags to the grocery store for your tomatoes, onions, potatoes and other garden ingredients.

Use refillable water jugs instead of purchasing new drinking water jugs.

Fill your berkey instead of buying bottled water.

Batch cook before heading out to your boondocking site. That way, there’s no meat trays, cans, jars and bottles to worry about where to dispose of them.

Use empty chip bags for wet garbage such as coffee grounds, leftover food, egg shells, produce waste, etc. Then seal and set inside a plastic throwaway shopping bag.

Instead of using bulky paper plates, we use diner type baskets with deli paper or use a paper towel. Paper takes up far less space than disposable plates and bowls. Also, the paper is safer to burn instead of paper plates that are coated with chemicals.

Also, there’s no need to use a paper plate to put your sandwich and chips on. A simple paper towel will suffice.

Assign each person their own coffee mug, cup or water bottle. This alleviates need for plastic or paper cups. If you need a straw, use a clean washable straw instead.

Recycle your plastic big box store and grocery bags by using them for everyday trash. They are small making them much easier to dispose of at a gas station while refueling your vehicle. We stow them in a shopping bag holder that makes them easy to store and access when we need them. 

Break down all boxes regardless if they are a cereal box or a larger carton box. Stack neatly and tie with twine or string as they can be recycle.

How to find free recycling locations

If you look around, recycling containers and recycle drop offs are showing up everywhere! From city street corners to even our National Parks, you can find places to dispose of your recyclables. 

Where you can find free recycling locations

    • Roadside Rests
    • Travel Centers
    • Grocery Stores
    • Campgrounds & RV Parks

 

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