Life however we live it produces waste. Living in a caravan and traveling is certainly no exception. We have found as we have traveled in our caravan, as it was when we lived in a house, our waste can generally be divided into recyclables, green waste (food scraps) and landfill rubbish and in addition there is water and body waste to contend with as well. We have also discovered that living on the road creates some unique challenges when it comes to dealing with waste and rubbish.
So why should we care about our waste as travelers? Why it is not enough just to put it in the bin? Because as travelers we are in the position to observe the natural beauty of the world and develop an appreciation and understanding of just how fragile and precious these environments are, and to have seen first hand the negative impact waste has.
Personally I feel passionate about the responsibility travelers like myself have to care for the environment and the world we are privileged to be enjoying and to be immersed in. Quite simply put our waste is something that we can easily and effectively do something about and have a very significant and positive impact. With little effort but some thoughtfulness we can have an impact that is positive that requires little change in our lifestyle.
NEGATIVE IMPACT OF WASTE
Still need some convincing you should be concerned about waste?
According to cleanup.org.au Australians are the second highest producers of waste sending per person approximately 690kg to landfill each year or as coolaustralia puts it, an average family produces enough waste to fill a three bedroom house per year.
Impact of Plastic Waste
Plastic waste negatively impacts every environment and species on the planet, including people ie you. Science Mag estimates that 275 million metric tons of plastic waste is entering the oceans each year and significantly more is going to landfill with an estimate period of decomposition of 500 – 1000 years. Plastic waste is so significant and profound that plastics are now in our food as highlighted in the short film Are You Eating Plastic for Dinner?
The impact of plastic waste lastic waste on our oceans and waterways is profoundly negative:
- Just about all plastic ever made still exists today
- 80-90% of marine litter is made up of plastics
- Approximately 90% of seabirds have plastics in their stomachs
- World wide over 500 million plastic bottles are used each year
- 1 in 3 species of marine animals have been found tangled in marine litter
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch made up of plastic, chemical sludge and other waste is estimated to cover between 700,000 – 15,000,000 squared kilometres or in other words 0.4 – 0.8% of the pacific ocean
Impact of Food Waste
The film Food Waste is the World’s Dumbest Problem highlights the following facts about the impact of food waste :
- Decomposing food waste sent to landfill creates methane a highly toxic gas, so much so that if food waste was a country it would be third highest polluter in the world.
- Food waste throws away with it natural resources, water, labour and other costs adding up to billions of dollars each year The average person or family throws away over 25% of the food they purchase. This means spending $300 per week or $15600 per year on food will equate to throwing away $3900 per year.
Impact of Landfill Waste
Australia has a high dependency on landfill for its waste management. It is our go to for just about everything that isn’t recycled and landfills negatively impact our air, water and land quality. Landfill gases, primarily methane contributes to global warming, water moving through landfill leaches out contaminates that eventually make it to our ground water. (Source: Waste Disposed to Landfill)
RESPONSIBLE WASTE MANAGEMENT WHEN LIVING ON THE ROAD OR TRAVELING
So lets talk about some simple ideas for managing waste while living or traveling on the road.
a) Refuse Single Use Plastics and Items:
By refusing right at the point of purchase the choice is being made to eliminate the opportunity for there to be waste. There are a lot of single use plastics that have entered our day to day lives that are impact negatively both in their production and when they become waste after only one use. Refusing these items will have a hugely positive impact.
Some of the Single Use Items to Refuse
- Plastic Bags replace with Reusable Shopping and Produce Bags
- Disposable Coffee or Drink Cups replace with Travel Mug
- Bottled Water replace with Reusable Drink Bottle
- Soft Drink, Juice or Cordial Bottles replace with Soda Stream, Juice Fruit and Make Cordial
- Drinking Straws replace with Reusable Metal Straw or No Straw
- Balloons replace with NA
- Takeaway Containers replace with Your Own Reusable Containers
- Cling Or Plastic Food Wrap replace with Beeswax Food Wraps
- Baby Wipes replace with Washers or Wash Cloths
- Disposable Dish Clothes replace with Washable Micro Fibre Cloths
- Excessive Packaging replace with Chose Items with Minimal or No Packaging
- Plastic Cutlery and or Disposable Dishes replace with Metal Cutlery and or Reusable Dishes
- Fruit or Vegetables Wrapped or Prepackaged in Plastic replace with Unpackaged Fruit and Vegetables Using Your Produce Bags
- Meat in Plastic Trays replace with Buy from Butchers or Delis in Your Own Containers
With a few simple changes you can really can impact huge positive change.
Source: 1 Million Women
b) Reduce Your Food Waste:
In preparing for Our Wayfaring Life we looked at our budget to find ways to save money and when we looked at our grocery expenditure and how much food we were throwing away it was clear this was one area we could save some serious money. And save we did! All we simply did was:
- Meal plan
- Use a shopping list to ensure only what is needed is purchased
- Use a smaller trolley or hand basket to shop so we don’t feel we have to fill the trolley unnecessarily
- Purchased plastic containers to ensure appropriate food storage to prevent food from spoiling and being thrown away.
The results were, we halved our shopping bill; nobody starved and we still have the vitals like chocolate. Another benefit of our new shopping behaviour also meant we dramatically reduce our plastic waste because we simply weren’t buying packaged food we didn’t need.
Other ideas for reducing food waste which we do are:
- We don’t peel fruit or vegetables unless absolutely necessary
- Find recipes that use the ingredients we already have
- Reduced serving sizes
- Use a three way fridge in our caravan
- Use appropriate food scraps and leftovers to supplement Chika’s diet. We give Chika a diet that includes raw and cooked foods. When we cook for her we throw in any vegetable and fruit scraps that is ok for dogs to eat.
Alternatively there are groups such as ShareWaste which is an initiative that brings people together with food waste with those that are able to compost it. While living on the road composting is very difficult so having the option of giving it to someone else who can is well worth considering.
c) Reuse, Donate and or Buy Second Hand Items:
Here it is about considering how an items life or usefulness can be extended thus preventing or delaying it going to landfill. There are far too many items and ideas for their reuse or ongoing use to discuss here and instead would encourage you to consider:
- What other use could this have?
- Alternatively give it away to someone who can use it.
There are more and more groups popping up allowing communities to come together for dealing with and sharing waste or unwanted items. Pay It Forward or Upcycle or Freecycle Groups can be found on social media with Pay It Forward Blue Mountains being an example. These groups allow for passing on items to those who can use them (usually for free) as well as preventing thousands and thousands of tonnes of items going to landfill. Having used these groups extensively it would be possible to use these while living on the road or traveling as items, if you specify, are often collected within a few hours or a day. It never ceased to amaze us what others have a use for!
Of course there is still the option of donating to charity shops. The other side of this is the need to buy second hand. Yes certain department stores have incredibly cheap products these days but buying second hand you are reducing items going to landfill, reducing the impact of production and just being a generally good person.
Living on the road we have seen that many fellow travelers giving little thought to sorting and recycling their waste unless there is a recycling bin right in front of them. Given the impact of waste on our environment “opportunistic recycling” really isn’t sufficient.
Basically there are generally two recycling programs in most communities across the country:
- General Recycling – broadly is a recycling scheme where plastics (that cannot be scrunched) , paper, cardboard and glass ae collected by local councils.
- REDcycle – is a recycling scheme for plastics that can be scrunched such a plastic bags, food packaging and so forth. Coles Supermarkets provide the collection points for this scheme.
- Container Deposit Schemes – not all states have these unfortunately but the idea is to dramatically increase the amount of recyclable items being surrender for recycling by paying a small fee for each item.
Normally we would have general recycling collected by our local council through kerbside rubbish collection but when on the road this option is not readily available. In fact as we have discovered finding public recycling bins or collection points is challenging. We have sometimes gone weeks without seeing a public recycling bin.
In addition, REDcycle collection points at participating Coles are not always readily available and not all states have schemes running to pay for recyclable items.
So what do can be done? Our solution so far is to have a storage tub to carry our recyclable waste with us until we can put it in a recycling bin and or we get to a Coles supermarket to deposit our REDcycling. The longest we have carried it for so far is approximately two weeks while we have been in Tasmania but I assume when we are back on the big island traveling that this time could be significantly longer when traveling the more remote areas. Still you do what you have to, right?
e) Responsible Disposal of Landfill Waste
Once the reusable items, recycling and green waste have been separated out what is left is the landfill waste. It is important that this waste is deposited in the appropriate publicly supplied rubbish bins.
It is not difficult when living on the road or traveling to make choices that reflect responsible and thoughtful management of your waste by:
* Refusing single use plastic items
* Reducing food waste through meal planning and buying only what is needed
* Sort your recycling from your general waste, depositing in public recycling bins or at REDcycle collection points. In addition having storage for carrying these with you until such time as you can deposit them responsibly.
OTHER TRAVEL WASTE
a) Water Waste
How much waste water you create while on the road will greatly depend on your rig or set up as well as the ease or difficulty there is in accessing water. Regardless responsible water waste management means:
- First and foremost ensuring you use water wisely
- Collecting dirty or used water and later depositing at dump points
- On occasions it is permitted to allow waste water directly on the ground be very mindful of nearby water supply such as creeks or lakes and ensure you are not allowing soaps etc to enter these.
b) Bodily Waste
I wish this section of waste management while living on the road or traveling could be left unsaid but sadly human waste and toilet paper and or wipes is something far too often is seen in free or low cost campgrounds particularly where toilets are not provided. Personally I cannot comprehend a thought pattern that justifies leaving bodily waste and toilet paper lying on the ground. It is a choice deliberately made by few that represents a level of disrespect for others and the environment that astounds and horrifies. If this is you, in all seriousness, pack your bags and go home.
The other incomprehensible behaviour we see occasionally is chemical or portable toilet being emptied on the ground or with a vague attempt to hide it some scrub or bushes. For the love of everything human and decent just don’t. Dump points are readily available across the country. Use them!
Since we are on the subject, what are the acceptable options for toileting and managing bodily waste while on the road or traveling? These are primarily your options:
Use a chemical or portable toilet and use dump points
Stay in campgrounds or caravan parks with toilet amenities.
Use public toilets. There are good apps available that will direct to the nearest ones. My tip is carry toilet paper.
Dig a hole at least 30cm deep and bury it. Ensure it is away from any water source.
What ever option/s you choose be respectful and thoughtful.
While traveling or living on the road has its unique challenges when it comes to waste it is possible to implement some simple ideas that with a little effort and thought can be of benefit to the environment and reduce your impact. We would love to hear any ideas for reducing waste and responsibly managing waste while on the road. What do you do?
It really is on all of us to take care of the environment.