RecycleBus - the Idea




Why doesn't every community recycle?

One of the reasons is cost of:





In rural America - small towns can't always afford the start up capitol it takes to get a recycling program off the ground.

The easier it is to recycle - the more apt people are to do it.

Curb -side recycling and community trailers make recycling easier.

Why not re-use a vehicle that we once trusted to take our children to school - to now recover our cans, plastics and paper.

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Step 1: An Oversimplified Recipe

Take one yellow school bus

Remove seats

Reinforce frame on passenger side

Cut 3 bays on the passenger side

Create some kind of dividing walls to separate - plastics - metal - paper

Convert side wall to swinging doors

Paint recycle green - add logo

Pick up cans - plastic - paper

Your design depends on your vehicle and your needs.

Step 2: Why a RecycleBus Instructable - Why

The community I live in voted to start curbside recycling this year. It made sense to me that the recovery vehicle did not need to be an expensive piece of equipment.

Org accounts were cheap this month

This web site is to encourage:

communities to start a recycling program with a small start up cost.

communities to "piggy-back" onto towns with existing recycling programs.

entrepreneurs to start their own recycling business.

Step 3: To Recycle

Basic recycling needs:

Recovery Vehicle


Storage Area

Ab outlet for the recyclables - Vendor

Step 4: The Basics of a Recycling Program Are:

A way to pickup or receive recyclables

A way to store recyclables

A way to deliver the recyclables to a vendor

Step 5: Conceivably the RecycleBus Could Perform All Three Basics

In the small town of Recycleville the RecycleBus sits next to a common area (diner, bar or grocery) Monday through Thursday

Friday morning - a driver and a thrower walk the town gathering curbside

If the RecycleBus is not full - It is parked back at the common place in town

If the RecycleBus is full - it is driven 15 miles to BigCity's recycling center



Parked back in Recycleville's common area

Step 6: Advantages of RecycleBus

School Buses are common to every community.
They have had regular maintenance.
Every town has a bus mechanic or local service.
Recyclable recovery is about cubic space not weight.
Cost - Free to $2000.
True to the idea of recycling and re-using.
When it fails - there are more to convert.
The RecycleBus can double as a recycling point - placed near dorms, schools and grocery stores to allow those without curbside to recycle.
The first community in an area that embraces the idea - could become the pilot program (i.e. grants).
Recyclables are sold like commodities - prices rise and fall - done right a recycling program can support itself .

Step 7: Disadvantages of RecycleBus

Looks used - unprofessional
Maintenance on a used vehicle
Maneuverability of a large bus

Step 8: Disadvantages of Using RecycleBus Like a Recycling Trailer

You need to maintain liability auto insurance
Steps may be needed to hoist recyclables into the bus

Step 9: Over Complicate Your RecycleBus

Use recycled BioDiesel from your community
Building the RecycleBus as a High School shop project
Building the RecycleBus becomes a prison services project
Running the RecycleBus as a group project - Boy Scouts - Church - School Class - 4H
At the end of Fall have a weekend where you pickup bags of leaves curb side for a small fee - send to nearest composter
The week after Christmas - Pick up Christmas trees curbside for a small fee - send to nearest animal habitat

Step 10: Conclusions

We all need to start recycling and reusing
The recycling business can be profitable - mining consumer waste
In nature there is no waste - the refuse of one animal is used by another
Recycling isn't hard - it is as simple as another garbage can in the house
A RecycleBus in your community is a good start

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    19 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I like the concept that the recovery vehicle does not need to be expensive. Caveat: focusing on a specific vehicle type can drive up demand for it and thus drive up the cost of obtaining. This happened when the idea of re-using old shipping containers as inexpensive modules for housing caught on. Where once you could get them for the cost of delivery, now you can't find any for less than a few grand.

    Using a simple trailer pulled by a standard pick-up would be a solution. You would only need to pay liability insurance on the one vehicle, but you could maintain a yard full of trailers filled with stored recyclables if needed. Even better: use one flat trailer and many containers.

    On the other hand, an old school bus with a non-working engine is a great opportunity for conversion to an electric hybrid vehicle.


    5 years ago on Step 10

    I like the concept and I can see where this would work for a smaller town. A good grant writer probably could find state & federal programs as well as private industry grants to provide the initial capital to set this up. That would only leave operating expenses. I don't see selling the collected materials as enough to pay for fuel and maintenance on the vehicles even if they were driven by volunteers.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    When I lived in Minneapolis I became familiar with a group called Sister's Camelot that did exactly this, except that what they recycled was organic foods. The idea was to distribute organic food to the public, for free, before it had a chance to spoil, but after it could be sold on the market--most food markets in the city will throw away produce well before it goes bad, since at a certain point it just won't sell when placed beside newer produce. Since buses run on diesel, they are also natural candidates for vegetable oil conversion, which I believe SC did. I'm pretty sure they also installed refrigerating units in the bus for non-winter use, and they made two to three charity runs a week, much to the delight of homeless and lower income families that sometimes didn't have enough to eat, and certainly couldn't afford market prices on organic foods, all as a non-profit entity surviving off of donations. Very inspiring, and proof that your idea is plausible.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    before recycling was so widespread or such big business, a small company called wyecycle was started near where I live. they used, and still use, old minibuses with the seats stripped out. For a very small company or a community project such vehicles are virtually free to buy but probably time-consuming to maintain. mechanical skills would be a priority need.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    ElmoRoyD: In my province (Ontario, Canada) a lot of school boards have a maximum age requirement of 10 years for a school bus. Many used school buses are available for resale used. Some school bus companies move buses around to boards that do not have this requirement to get more life out of the bus. Also every operating school bus must meet two(2) safety checks every year or face stiff fines. Due to the extreme climate here in Canada and the addition of salt on our roads in the winter to melt snow and ice many school buses are usally done their life (or almost) at age ten making major body repairs not cost effective.
    Miguelq: My city picks up recycling at the curb of each house using a big diesel truck. Is this efficient? No, but it does save on filling up our landfill site and keeps it usable many more years as the cost of a new site is extremely expensive.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea, but i think is harder to apply.

    Maybe if we can see some numbers. The cost of the bus, the capacity, how long will it take to fill, how many miles is going to travel, gas cost. how much is the driver going to make? only a driver or someone else to help with the material? 

    i dont know a lot about USA regulations, but i wonder why they throw away that buses? just safety for the childrens? is about big mantenaince costs? special permission to move trash? do you have any economical bonus for recycling from the goverment?

    im from Mexico (sorry for the english) in the border manufacturing companies buy this buses for employees transportation, and we dont have big reciclyng problems, we have enough poor people that collects (even steal) all kind of material for sale, paper, copper, car batteries, PET etc. i have worked with a project to make this people win a little more of money.
     Thats  why i "ask" for numbers.

     The first idea in the project was something like this, but the 2 principal problems were not enough money, and the bigger problem, the people. The lack of commitment and bad organization.

    And yes, materials dropped the price, that happened to ous at middle of the project.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    What if a 'sponsor" was acquired in the community who would offer a "central" place (for that community) to park the green bus and volunteer to drop the recyclables at regional processing center once the bus was full? Maybe even setup a small bio-diesel processor at each "green-stop" to cover the fuel of the green bus and maybe a little extra to raise money for the operation and provide cost-effective fuel to the community. This could also have the benefit of recycling waste from restaurants and offering an additional income stream for local farmers.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    It seems like a really good idea once people have adopted recyclable material separation. The only caveat to the idea is that those buses are gas or diesel guzzlers. It could be a great neighborhood project to source the bus as a pilot.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Yea - old pic plus 15 minutes of Photoshop I think it would be nice if someday: yellow buses meant "kids were getting an education" green buses were a reminder "that we gotta recycle"


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Have you suggested this to your local authority? I think it's a great idea, and if the biggest disadvantage is "the bus looks a bit ratty" then you could do a lot worse. With a proper proposal, (flip charts and pie charts and whatnot ;) ) I think it's well worth raising the idea.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    My plan is to incorporate the comments and ideas from the community into

    Once is fleshed out more - I'm going to propose the idea to the local recycling program. Mainly to encourage small towns 10-15 miles away to piggy-back onto the local program. Depending on how it is received - my next step it to take it to State government.

    If I polish enough to include a "Costs" page and a "Stats and Graphs" page. Someone in South Dakota can run with the idea. Someone in Oregon can suggest it to the City Council by sending the link. An entrepreneur in Florida can use it as a business plan.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Would like to see the site hammered out a bit more. I think it could fit a nice web2.0 look and be a tad more interactive. Also should have a way to get people more enthused and perhaps have a stock "business plan" to submit to local governments to perhaps fund a project like this. Bottom line - great idea. 5/5


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I think this is a great idea. There's only one part i don't like. When i gave it a 5/5 stars the stars only went to 3.09. It doesn't make sense. Shouldn't it go to 5/5?

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    the star system gives it an average. As more people give 4/5 and 5/5 the overall number will go up.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    As photohippie mentioned, they use some algorithm that prevents that from happening. It wouldn't be fair for one person to make a new instructable be rated at 5/5 when older instructables (that may be better) aren't able to get that high when one or two people didn't give it a five. Similarly, one bad rating won't cause the it to plummet.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Couple of thoughts, mostly on costs. For insurance you would probably need to have commercial coverage which is slightly more expensive. Not a big obstacle but still something that needs to be planned for. Assuming no grants are available and offsetting costs is an issue a program could forgo paper recycling and focus on plastic, aluminum, & glass. Aluminum and glass are the more profitable while plastic is the most harmful of the lot. Takes a long time in a landfill setting but eventually paper will decompose. Certainly better to recycle it but if you have to compromise it is likely the best choice of the lot as it is heavy, takes up a lot of space, and doesn't have a lot of economic value. For extra capacity it should be possible to attach a tow trailer to the bus. Likely requires some modification and welding. I'm not aware of any bolt on options for mounting a trailer hitch to a bus. Should be fairly easy to accomplish.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    In the UK, the value of all recyclables has just plummeted - steel cans have dropped from 150GPB / tonne to just 10GBP. That will make it hard to finance a project like this.