Unfortunately, not everything about traveling and exploring the world in an RV is fun and exciting – there are some inconvenient practicalities that you need to manage as well. For example: how do RV’s get rid of waste?
RV’s generally have waste storage systems that collect black and grey water (toilet and shower waste) that can be emptied at an appropriate disposal location.
You might have direct sewage hookup at some sites, but at others, you will need to carry out the disposal yourself. Some RV’s don’t have built-in toilets and showers, but you still generate other waste that needs to be disposed of properly.
Read ahead to find out the different ways that RV users tend to get rid of the waste that naturally builds up on the road so that you know how to stay hygienic, safe, and kind to the environment as you travel.
What Kind of Waste Do You Have to Deal With in an RV?
If you are a fan of traveling in an RV, then you know how important it is to protect the beauty and majesty of the natural world that you have the privilege of enjoying.
Part of your responsibility as an RV user is taking care of the waste that you will generate while you’re exploring the world. There are three main kinds of waste that need to be disposed of in some way or other:
- Black Water. Black water is a slightly less unpleasant term for sewage waste. It basically refers to anything that is collected from your RV’s toilet. It can obviously be pretty unhygienic, so it needs to be dealt with carefully.
- Grey Water. Grey water is the wastewater from any other plumbing you might have. It includes the run-off from your sink and your shower, and it is less problematic to dispose of than black water.
- General Waste. As well as the water waste that you generate while traveling, you will start collecting a lot more general waste too. Garbage, recycling, leftovers, and all sorts of other things will need to be properly collected and thrown away.
How Do RV’s Get Rid of Waste Water?
In many ways, it’s your waste water that is the most difficult thing to manage when you’re camping. You’re used to dealing with garbage, food waste, and recycling when you’re at home, but you don’t often have to think about where your water goes once you’ve used it.
If you have a toilet, sink, and/or shower in your RV, then it will also have a waste holding tank. These will be separated into a “black water tank” (for your sewage waste) and a “grey water tank” (for other wastewater).
This is definitely the more disgusting waste to deal with, but it is also the most important to handle properly. It isn’t just a bit gross if it’s not disposed of in the right way, it can be really harmful to people’s health, as well as the environment.
Most RV’s will have a removable black water tank, which you can usually slide out from the side of the vehicle. This can be safely sealed so that you can carry it without making a mess.
You need to empty this tank into a black water disposal area, which most campsites will have. Don’t worry, there are generally a lot of chemicals involved to deal with unpleasant smells.
You may well have a waste valve on your RV as well, which can be hooked up to a sewage disposal pipe when they are available. This definitely takes a lot of the hassle out of the whole process, but not every campsite or RV park will have this facility.
Even though grey water is a lot less problematic than black water, it can’t be dumped just anywhere. It will often contain a lot of chemicals and bacteria that can be very harmful to the environment.
Grey water is usually contained and emptied in much the same way that black water is, although you can empty grey water into a simple drain rather than going to a specific disposal site.
If you’re lucky enough to have a hookup, it’s a good idea to empty your grey water after your black water – to give the pipe a bit of a rinse.
Are All RV Toilets the Same?
There are actually different toilet facilities that you might encounter in an RV, and they don’t all collect and dispose of waste in the exact same way. For example, you might have:
- Cassette Toilet/Gravity Flush Toilet: These are probably the most common option. These simple toilets are fixed in place and attached to a holding tank that you need to empty.
- Composting Toilet: Instead of using water to flush, a compost toilet separates solids from liquids and uses a composting material to break down the solid components. They produce much less waste, but they still need to be cleaned regularly.
- Dry Flush Toilet: These also don’t need water, and instead have a cartridge that seals the waste in individual “bags”. Some of these cartridges can actually be emptied into regular trash, like a used diaper.
- Incinerator Toilet: This isn’t a very common option, but it does get rid of your waste pretty thoroughly. Everything gets burned away to ash, which is pretty simple to clean up.
- Portable Toilet: You might not have a built-in toilet option with your RV, but you can opt for a portable toilet instead. These are pretty basic and generally consist of a seat attached to a waste container.
Summary: How Do RV’s Get Rid of Waste?
So, how do RVs get rid of waste? Well, there are a few different types of waste that need to be managed, and they are dealt with in different ways.
Grey water (the runoff from your sink and/or shower) is stored in a tank that needs to be emptied into a drain. Black water is sewage waste, which is stored separately and needs to be disposed of at a black water disposal site.
Some sites will have a sewage hook-up that can link directly to your waste tanks, making the whole process a lot easier.
Not all RV toilets work the same way, though, and some are easier to manage than others. Of course, you can’t forget about the other waste that needs to be dealt with too.
Recycling, food waste, and garbage have to be properly disposed of in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. You should always leave your campsite as beautiful and pristine as it was when you arrived.