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Managing Trash in a Van Life: Tips and Tricks for Staying Sustainable on the Road

Managing Trash in a Van Life: Tips and Tricks for Staying Sustainable on the Road

I was incredibly surprised by how much trash we use while living in a van. I thought that since we’d be in a smaller space with fewer things, we’d have less to throw out. However, we still have a lot of waste.

The average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash daily – and spoiler alert, living in a van doesn’t change that. If you are planning on living in a van, you may find that one of the challenges of van life is managing trash. Today we’re going to talk about managing, reducing, and even recycling while living in a van.

Why managing trash is important when living in a van

Managing trash is one of the most important considerations when it comes to living in a van. Without weekly trash pickup and limited space, keeping your vehicle clean and hygienic can be overwhelming.

The organization is essential as moving with too much refuse can quickly become cluttered and weighty. Taking proactive steps such as packing only what you need, never leaving waste behind, and having designated bins for sorting are all strategies that will help maintain a sanitary and safe environment in your home on wheels. With knowledge and preparation, managing trash doesn’t have to get the best of you.

Tips for reducing the amount of trash you produce

Living in a van has some unique challenges, one of which is the disposal of trash. To help keep the space clutter-free and to reduce the amount of trash you produce, here are some tips that can come in handy.

  1. Focus on reducing your overall consumption – shop for items that have little to no packaging, buy refillable containers for condiments and foods with disposable packaging, and commit to using up all of your groceries.
  2. Look for creative ways to reuse or recycle what’s already accumulated- repurpose scrap paper into note cards or gift wrap; donate clothes, furniture, and household items you don’t need; and recycle items you know cannot be reused.
  3. If your van doesn’t have a weekly pick-up, plan ahead and bring your excess garbage or recyclables back when you make trips home. By following these three tips you should see a big reduction in the amount of trash you’re producing!

How to store trash while living in a van

Living in a van offers freedom and adventure but also brings potential challenges such as how to store and dispose of trash.

Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene inside the van is especially important, but without a weekly trash pickup that can be difficult. One solution is to bring garbage bags when going on trips so that trash can be contained and stored for disposal at designated areas.

We used to keep our trash under the sink – that’s how I designed the space. However, we had to move it. The propane sensor, which is also under the sink with the propane, is very sensitive. Not just to propane though – it’s also sensitive to the fumes that come from cleaning wipes. You know, the wipes we use to wash our bodies between shower days.

It seemed like almost every morning the alarm would go off. Once we realize it was the cleaning wipes, we moved the trash can out from under the sink and we haven’t heard the alarm since.

This was a very long story to say that you can always put a trash can in a corner. It doesn’t have to be hidden away in a cupboard or under the sink (though I wish ours was).

Instead, you can leverage little spaces like the step we never use on the sliding door to store the trash. Plus, it’s easier to access now and things get thrown away consistently.

How to dispose of the trash while living in a van

Disposing of trash is pretty easy. There are trashcans in almost every parking lot that are specifically for the public to use. We often use these trashcans in the back of the parking lots of Walmart or Lowes.

When disposing of larger medium to large size trash bags, we will lift the lid of these public trashcans and easily place the bags inside. It’s that easy.

National parks, campgrounds, state parks, and even city parks have dumpsters for the public to use so you can easily dispose of large amounts of waste if needed.

With some creative solutions living in a van can still allow you the convenience of regular trash disposal you’d have in a house or apartment unit.

How to recycle while living in a van

For small everyday items like food wrappers and bottles, it’s best to keep separate recycled containers tucked away near the entrance of the van for quick disposal.

There are many people who live in a van and have a plastics recycling system or even a food composting system. If composting food is a priority, you will be able to find the space and time to do so.

Recycling while living in a van can be a bit more challenging than recycling at a traditional residence, but it is still possible. Here are a few tips for recycling on the road:

  1. Research local recycling facilities: Before you hit the road, research recycling facilities in the areas you plan to visit. Many cities and towns have designated recycling centers where you can drop off your recyclable materials at.
  2. Sort your waste: Make sure you sort your recyclable materials from your non-recyclable waste. This will make it easier to drop off your recyclables at a recycling center.
  3. Use reusable containers: To reduce waste, invest in reusable containers for food and drinks. This will help reduce the amount of trash you generate while on the road.
  4. Composting: If you have a small compost bin you can use it to compost your organic waste, this will greatly reduce the amount of waste you have to deal with.
  5. Consider a recycling bag: Purchase a recycling bag for your van, so you can easily separate recyclable materials from the rest of your trash.
  6. Be mindful of what you buy: Avoid products with excessive packaging and try to buy in bulk when possible.

By following these tips, you can help reduce your environmental impact while living in a van. Remember to always check the recycling rules and regulations of the area you are in, as it varies from place to place.

The benefits of living a sustainable lifestyle on the road

Living on the road can present some unique challenges, but with a sustainable lifestyle, it is possible to overcome them in ways that benefit both your environment and your peace of mind.

Sustainable living often involves making small changes, such as reducing waste by composting or recycling materials — something that makes sense when you’re living in a van and doesn’t have easy access to traditional garbage pick-up services.

Living with less can also help reduce the amount of stuff you need to fit in your space, so you end up with more room for whatever you need — whether it’s supplied for adventuring or just some extra books and personal items.

There’s something incredible about being able to curate your own experiences while still caring for the planet, and living sustainably on the road is one way to do that.

Living in a van is an incredible adventure, but managing trash presents unique challenges. But if done responsibly, this lifestyle can offer many rewards, both to the environment and your own wallet!

By taking small steps such as reducing the amount of trash you produce and being mindful of where and how you dispose of it, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of living a sustainable lifestyle on the road.

Make sure to research the laws in your area about disposing and storing trash, for instance having access to a dumpster or finding nearby recycling centers.

Coming up with creative storage solutions for trash is also a great life hack that won’t break the bank. With planning and regular cleaning out it’s easy enough to keep vehicle living enjoyable and clutter-free!