Jackie Thompson

The latest homeowner generation are those embracing the small home, semi-nomadic movement. According to The Guardian, there has been an increase of 23% when it comes to mobile home owners, with more and more people opting to enjoy low-energy, high-flexibility homes. One challenge posed by these arrangements is waste management – solid and liquid. Septic tanks are associated with their own serious concerns when it comes to sustainability, affecting water quality given their early rate of failure. Elsewhere, the disposal of solid waste can be difficult when the home is considered transient. The good news – there are options.

Minimizing Food Waste

Just with any other home, food waste is the most pressing issue for mobile homes and RVs. The FDA estimates that 30-40% of all food is wasted, and there are scant provisions for homes to reclaim nutrients, for instance through composting, better food habits, or upcycling. One of the best ways to counter this is, increasingly, through composting. As technology improves, composting solutions are becoming more and more accessible and functional at smaller sizes. It’s entirely possible to have a composting unit in an RV, for instance. Indeed, as ZDNet highlights, composting is a quick and easy first step to vastly reduce food waste. Care must be taken with what is going to be composted – raw meat isn’t a good option, for instance – but that compost can then be redistributed to communities when settling the home or vehicle, or for use on personal allotments.

A Recycling Map

The nomad lifestyle does necessitate some degree of physical and plastic waste. There are times when clean drinking water sources can’t be obtained, for instance, and so bottled water is necessary. However, there are measures that nomadic or mobile people can take. For instance, reusing plastic bottles wherever possible, and using them for innovative ends – for instance as plant pots, or for the storage of other solid, non-toxic waste – reduces the impact of the vehicle or home on the planet. Making the most of plastics and other reusable materials within the home is key.

Composting as a Priority

One of the most troublesome aspects of mobile living is human waste management. Urban systems have infrastructure to deal with this, and processes to help refine and maximize the benefits that can be obtained from sanitation. Composting toilets have tried to accomplish this in RVs but, as highlighted by mobile living advocates Vanlife, there are a huge number of factors involved with self-composting that usually end with the waste simply being thrown into landfill. As a counter to this, more needs to be done to open up composting sites, such as those operated by the Compost Council. This will provide invaluable opportunities to manage waste in a much more progressive manner.

Mobile living is a sustainable way of living, but it has problems in dealing with waste. The answers to it aren’t always so simple. Innovative solutions will be needed to ensure that mobile and nomadic people are also able to contribute to effective waste management.