How to Minimize Trash While RVing & Camping

Since RVs and campers are smaller than the average home, it takes no time for the garbage can to fill up with trash. And then, they have to worry about how or where we’re going to dispose of it. So, we’ve put together some creative ways on how to minimize your trash output and helping to save our planet.

Nobody wants to look at a rubbish can overflowing with plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, paper and tons of bulky packaging. But when you live in tight quarters like RVs, boats, and the vehicle you travel in, it can be a bit of a challenge. Oftentimes, you’re left scratching your head wondering what to do with all that trash.

It used to be we’d find places to just toss a trash bag. But now, most of those places have put locks on their trash bins or have taken them away completely.

Related Article: Trash Disposal Tips for RVers: Where to Get Rid of the Garbage

So, that forces people who live on the road like RVers, campers, road trippers and even truckers to figure out how to manage what comes in so they don’t have to worry about the amount of trash that goes out.

According to, the average American consumer produces about 5 pounds of trash each day. An average American family throws away about 18-20 pounds daily. If you multiply those, it figures to over 1600 pounds per person and 6500 pounds per family per year.

Minimize Trash - Landfill

Think about that for a moment.

Don’t those numbers sound kind of gross? But, the good news is there are ways to decrease those numbers; especially for people like us who live in tiny spaces, on the road or both.

So, let’s skip all the trash talk and find some solutions on how to minimize trash on the road!

Always On Liberty - Minimize Trash

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How to Minimize Trash While Living on the Road

Minimize Trash - Product Packaging - Recycling

It’s hard not to notice that product packaging has gotten out of hand. Plain and simple, package presentation helps to sell product. All those attention-getting colors, bold words scream “BUY ME”. And once you get home to open the bulky packages, the actual product is less than one quarter the size of the package or box it came in. So, you’re left with disposing of that unnecessary packaging.

So, that brings us to the point of how you can lessen your trash footprint. It really comes down to analyzing exactly what you’re consuming. Is there a way to get the same product in a lesser package?

This goes for a lot of products that you use on even a daily basis. From batteries, hygiene necessities, household cleaners, beverages and food products, it seems that product manufacturers have gone a bit overboard with package presentation. Now, I totally get that some things you can’t avoid those blister  packs and boxes. But you do have a choice in which corporations you buy from based on the trash they actually produce. We all can send them a message.

So, before putting anything in your shopping cart, think about how you’re going to dispose of the trash each product creates. 


Bring your own produce bags

Minimize Trash - Bring Your Own Shopping Bag

First, I can’t stand those really thin plastic bags in the produce section of the grocery store. I can never get them separated or open without having to lick your fingers and well, ew! 

Say you go to the grocery store and you need to buy 3 small onions, 6 apples, 4 oranges, 3 baking potatoes, and 2 bunches of carrots. That’s five of those stupid plastic bags you’re jamming your fruits and vegetables into. And, that’s five times you’re licking your fingers to open those stupid bags! Again, EW!

If you think those plastic bags are there for you, think again. Those thin plastic bags are for the stores’ convenience as it’s easier to grab the bag of apples to place on the scale rather than grabbing six individual apples and trying to keep them all together to weigh them.

However, by bringing your own produce bags, you’ve beat them at their own game, helped the planet one bag at a time and surely decrease the trash you bring into your RV.

So, skip those finger-licking yucky plastic bags by bringing your own produce bags. You’ll still have to wash your produce when you get back to your RV anyways, so what’s the difference if they’re all mixed in just one or two of your own bags?

Buy from the grocery deli

I often wondered why sandwich meats and cheese are packaged a sealed plastic zipper bag that’s then, packed inside a bulky plastic container. Why couldn’t the product manufacturers just stop at the plastic bag?

But, you could get the same lunchmeat at the deli counter of the grocery store wrapped in just thin paper or a thin plastic zipper bag. So, think about that next time you’re going to buy sliced cheese and sandwich meats.

Ask your butcher to bulk package

Minimize Trash - Meat Packaging

When it comes to buying your steaks, chicken, and even hamburger, it’s better to buy your meat in bulk. This reason is two-fold. First, by buying family-packs of meats, you’re eliminating all the extra plastic wrap and meat trays. And secondly, buying family packs will actually save you a few pennies per pound.

Now, say you want to buy a few steaks in the refrigerated meat case that aren’t offered in family packs. Instead of tossing four individually wrapped steaks in your cart, ask the butcher to combine all the steaks into one package. While the price per pound may not change, you’ll minimize trash that heaps in your garbage can.

Take your own shopping bags

Many grocery stores across the United States are jumping on the bring your own bag mantra. First, while it costs the retailer, they’re essentially passing the cost onto the consumers. And we all know those plastic bags that have been recycled 10 times are going to split the minute you walk out the door.

By bringing your own shopping bags, you’ve not only saved yourself the headache of collecting your oranges all over the parking lot, but you also minimize trash that you bring back to your RV. 

Since we are constrained by space and weight, we can’t have big tote bags or even those folded multi-use shopping bags they sell at the grocery stores. So instead, we’ve bought shopping bags that collapse down to a tiny pouch that literally fits in our pockets and stores easily into the our seat pockets or glove box. They are also perfect to use at the Farmer’s Market, yard sale or craft show.

And speaking of shopping bags, we admit may forget taking our reusable shopping bags. But that doesn’t mean we toss those plastic grocery bags into the trash immediately. We actually recycle them by using them for kitchen scraps, basic throwaways and even our kitties’ litter box goodies. We just stow them all in our grocery bag holder in the bathroom so they’re out of sight and not overflowing all of the place.


No more water bottles!

While plastic water bottles are recyclable but it’s inevitable that they do end up in landfills because recycling is not available everywhere. And what RVer have a space for a recycling bin anyways?

So, instead of buying case after case of bottled water, why not just get a Berkey water filter systemThey are the perfect water filter system for RVers because it is gravity fed and does not require water pressure or electricity to operate. The great thing is will filter 6,000 gallons of water, this is easily 7+ years before they need to be changed. (Pssst, they come in two sizes, so you can choose which one fits better in your RV).


But if you’re road tripping in a car or your RV isn’t big enough, just invest in a reusable water bottle with built in water filter. When you stop to fuel up at the gas station, instead of buying bottles of water, just take take your own bottle with you. 

Oftentimes, the clerk will allow you to fill it with water. The most they’ll typically charge you is about 25 cents. It’s a win-win because you just saved space in your RV or car from empty water bottles but you also minimize trash to be thrown away later.

Oh, and if you’re wanting to just have extra water but don’t want to spend a dollar or more for a gallon of water, you can refill food grade refillable water container bags at water filling stations inside Walmarts, various grocery stores or water filling stations. When you’re finished, there’s nothing to throw away because they are reusable!

Take your own cup!

If you’re going to stop at Starbucks, truck stop or local coffee shop, take your own reusable coffee tumbler (clean of course!). After filling it with coffee, cream and sugar, just head to the checkout counter and tell them what size your cup is. 

Cool Travel Tip: Take your coffee tumbler with you when you go out for breakfast. Before you leave, ask for another refill of coffee. Doctor it up the way you like it and pour it into your own go cup!

The same goes for soda pop, water or even those Slushies. Just take your favorite cold beverage go cup and fill ‘er up!

You know you’re going to dump whatever you get into your own cup anyways. So, why create trash to begin with? Not only will you minimize trash in your RV, car or truck but they saved a few pennies on not having to supply a cup and lid. Hey, and sometimes if you ask the clerk, they may even take a dime or two off of your total.

Bring your own go box

When we go out to eat, we usually end up not eating our whole meal. Rather than waste good food that we pay for, we always ask for a go box to take it home. But that adds trash that you need to throw away later.

So now that we are living in a small motorhome, we just take our own food storage container or bento box that we can just throw in our RV refrigerator? But here’s the thing. We have to actually eat those leftovers or those too, end up in the trash which can be pretty smelly.


Limit using paper towels

Have you priced paper towels lately? For what they are and the purpose they serve, they are way to expensive to just throw away. While I’m not saying don’t have them, try to limit using paper towels. This alone will save your trash from piling up.

Instead, get a multi-pack of inexpensive dishtowels. I personally like colorful flour sack dishtowels (they come in plain white too!) because they are super absorbant yet lightweight. And they roll tight for compact storage. They are perfect for hand and dish drying, laying your clean fruits and vegetables after washing, and sopping up liquid messes.

Retro Diner Baskets with Paper Liners

No more paper plates!

While paper plates are nice to use on the road instead of dirtying dishes, we actually we use those cool retro diner baskets and line them with paper liners for our sandwiches, burgers, and even tacos! And there also perfect for wrapping sandwiches for when we’re on the road.

Paper takes up far less space than disposable plates and we don’t have to worry about more plastic going in the trash. But what’s even cooler is it makes dining in a little more fun like we’re eating from a fancy deli, carnival or food truck.

Cancel all periodicals and catalogs

Most of us who RV full-time don’t get much postal mail anymore. However, if you’re new to RV life, you’ll soon find out you just don’t have room for those magazines and catalogs anyways. So, canceling your subscriptions will help minimize trash that may collect over the months. You can read them online or at the library instead.

Final thoughts on how to minimize trash on the road

Grocery Shopping

So, the point in writing this article is to help full-time RVers (and even roadtrippers and truckers!) minimize our trash. If we can minimize it, then finding places to dispose of our trash, rubbish, garbage or whatever you want to call it is much easier.

We hope this article makes people aware of all the unnecessary irresponsible packaging. If we are selective in the products we purchase based on excess wasteful packaging, our planet would be so much better off. If we’re more careful in how we shop and what we purchase, we wouldn’t have to be searching far and wide of how and where we get rid of our rubbish.

We all can minimize trash simply by not buying products that have all that bulky packaging.

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