Thursday, September 21, 2023


Proper handling of food scraps: What’s the best way while RVing?

A discussion was already in progress as I joined my husband around the campfire this week. He seemed to be mumbling, “No, no, no,” under his breath. By the time I settled into my lawn chair, I, too, was thinking, “No, no, no.” Folks were talking about the proper handling of food scraps.


Almost every meal has some scraps. It may be a bit of leftover milk in the bottom of a breakfast cereal bowl or bacon grease left behind on the griddle. Sometimes it’s a piece of fat, trimmed off a steak, or the stems removed from the top of strawberries. Other times, it’s liquid resulting from boiling and draining vegetables. How do responsible RVers dispose of these food scraps?

Toss it out

Steve was talking. “It’s organic, so we’ve always just tossed our food scraps outside on the ground.” This news elicited both frowns and disgusted murmurs around the fire. Those who disagreed said, “It may be organic, but not all human food is good for animals to eat.”

“Besides,” Judy spoke up, “the food will draw all kinds of flies and bigger pests like mice to your campsite! I don’t want either one near my RV, and neither do you!”

Frank joined in, “There are bigger pests to worry about, too. Like raccoons or coyotes. Besides, if animals become dependent on your discarded food scraps, what happens to them once you leave the RV park? The next campers in your spot will have to deal with them!”

Vault toilets

“Then is it okay to dump scraps down the pit or vault toilets?” Steve wanted to know. (These non-flush toilet systems or outhouses are often installed in remote places for the benefit of hikers or tent campers.)

“That’s a strong ‘no’ as well,” Judy explained.

Burn it

Frank suggested, “I’ve seen some folks burn their food scraps. Bacon grease can really get a good fire going!”

Judy rolled her eyes. “In my state (Illinois), the EPA lists food and associated packaging as ‘waste that should never be burned.’ They must have their reasons.”

Truck bed or cab

“Look,” someone else suggested. “Put it in a garbage bag, seal it up, and keep it in your truck until you make a trip to the campground’s garbage box.”

“It better not be in the bed of your truck,” Frank said. “Raccoons and other critters will find it there if it’s just in a regular garbage bag.”

Hmm. As far as storing it inside the truck cab, make sure all of the doors are locked. Check out this video.

Bury it

“Is it okay to bury food scraps?” Steve asked. “If I dig a ‘cat hole’ a distance away from my boondocking spot and make sure to completely cover the scraps, will that work?”

“I think an animal would still detect it,” Judy opined. “Their olfactory sense is so much stronger than ours as humans. And if they sense it, they will dig it up and eat it, even if it isn’t good for them.”

RV sink

If you think it’s okay to put food scraps down your kitchen sink, think again! Your RV does not have a garbage disposal like the one in your stix-n-brix home. Food—even small bits—will accumulate over time and could cause a clog and/or unpleasant odors. Read my article about RV sink and shower drains here.

RV toilet

Your RV toilet is not a good place to dump food scraps either. The chemicals you put into your black tank are not designed to break down food scraps. Scraps can cause clogs within your drains and hoses.

Do this instead

  • Plan meals so that you have very little or no food scraps at all.
  • Think: “Dual usage.” We freeze water in freezer bags for the cooler. Once we arrive at the campsite, the water thaws and we reuse the bags to contain food scraps.
  • Take foods out of their original packaging to reduce garbage. Put food into odor-proof bags or containers.
  • “Pack it in. Pack it out.” If you have food scraps, plan to take them with you to a secure and dedicated garbage box or bin.

If you have additional tips or tricks for dealing with food scraps, share them in the comments below. And while you’re at it, tell us, what do you do with your food scraps while you’re RVing?

Last time in “Around the Campfire”:

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Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


  1. I use our own fire bowl for campfires and grilling. All of our grease and oil is burnt along with all consumable food items. A good hot fire cleans the bowl and burning combustible material reduces the amount of trash in someone’s landfill. When my fire has burned out there’s nothing left but ash which I bag and put in the 1st dumpster I come to. My traveling fire bowl weighs less than 3 pounds including bbq grill grate tools and storage bag. The leg’s keep it far enough from the ground to avoid scorching and it even has a spark arrester cover.
    Cogesu fire pit on Amazon. $64.99

  2. Back in sticks n bricks I lived in the country, n all food scraps other than meat got tossed off the bk deck during cold times, n into the garden during the rest. I had deer, possum, racoons, n turkey that came up. Also they’re was no hunting in my area. Now, everything goes into a dumpster, n quite often I clean the firepit of others unburnt crap.

  3. Have you ever tried to pick up oatmeal that was dumped in a campsite? As a host at a state park campground I’ve cleaned up oatmeal, eggshells, onion skins and a whole bag of tangerines that were left by the campers who just left. While I’m ranting, did you know that cigarette and cigar butts are trash too? Likewise, cans, bottles, paper plates, and other trash don’t belong in the fire pit!

  4. When no trash facility is available, I use a plastic 4qt Cambro food storage container for food scraps. I line it with a plastic grocery store veggie bag and keep it under the kitchen sink. The container seals up very tightly and no smell even after a week. Just pull the plastic bag out and dump.

  5. Thank you, Gail! We usually do not have any scraps. If we do, then it goes into the trash bag. Almost all our cooking in the RV is in the microwave/convection oven. Once in a while we use the induction cooktop, but more likely the small propane grill. The grease from the grill is encased in aluminum foil and goes into the trash bag.

  6. Many communities are starting composting programs. You could use the phone to find out if there is a compost drop site near your campsite or on the route you are driving.

  7. This is a ridiclous question, but in today’s Woke world I get it. Bacon grease and and other kind of cooking oils goes into the fire pit to burn up with the campfire, whether its ours or the next campers at our site. Everything else goes into grocery store plastic bags that line our kitchen garbage can and then into the the campground garbage dumpster or cans. Any pop (soda for many of you), and beer cans come home with us to collect the bottle deposit on as well as wine bottles or any other glass or plasitc container that will then go into our recycling can at home.

    I know Canada puts a big emphasis on recycling food scraps but I find it absolutely insane! We are animals as a species and no matter how you cut it there will be “waste” from consumption, just like any other living being on this planet.

    • Really? You leave bacon grease or other cooking oil in the fire pit to be burned when someone else has a fire? Animals will come scavenging when they smell it. So, you want others to have to deal with the animals that your grease attracts? Hope I don’t camp anywhere after you have been there!

  8. Not sure why “Judy” didn’t like the vault toilet idea. It’s all organic. Having many years’ experience with outhouses, I probably have a higher than average tolerance for temporary exposure to bad odors. Even then we always had a bag of lime to use if you thought it was getting out of hand.

    • I don’t know her reasons, but the signs in vault toilets say not to dump other stuff in there as it is extremely hard to remove. I suppose it could also plug up the suction hose if they get cleaned out.

  9. We compost at home so we are used to separating our food scraps and not having them stink up our trash bag as they begin to rot. We use a produce bag to put them in and keep in the freezer till we can dump them.

  10. We save plastic shopping bags from the grocery store and put all of the food scraps in there and freeze them. Then we add it to the next trash bag that is going to the dumpster. It is double bagged and hopefully is picked up that day.

  11. In a zip lock bag air squeezed out and placed in the freeze sometimes doubled. Then it gets tossed out usually exiting the camp ground or on my way to another location or home if camping locally. Frozen keeps the smell to zero.

  12. I save vitamin supplement bottles to put liquid food “scraps” from in. Nothing except soapy water goes down the kitchen sink drain. Learned from experience to let the liquid cool before pouring into the bottles- they melt! Bottle goes into the garbage can.

  13. I sure don’t want any of your campfire mates staying at my Boondockers Welcome- throwing on the ground?, burying? Do they cut down spruce boughs to sleep on too?

    Seriously- pack it in, pack it out!

  14. The first thing our yellow lab would do when we got to a new site was to go directly to the fire pit to look for something to eat. Thankfully she would reluctantly drop it when I told her.
    Fire pits are not garbage disposals!

  15. A Litter G’tter made by Kelty with a trash bag inside will hang off my roof basket, and I lock it in the car at night so critters don’t chew a hole in it. Eventually, I’ll find a dumpster if there isnt one in camp. The Litter G’tter can be turned inside out and hosed off if needed. I don’t bury it, as raccoons and bears will dig it up. A Trasharoo or something similar is good if you have a large spare tire to hang it on. It also can be used for stuffing trash into that others leave behind. Kelty also makes a bag for spare tire that some folks use for trash or other things. I don’t have much trash, so not a huge problem.


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