The saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is truly brought to life with dumpster diving. While it might seem like an excellent opportunity to discover some hidden gems for free, you’ll want to be sure you check up on a few things before getting too excited.
Let’s take a closer look as we dive into the big question of what dumpster diving is and whether or not it is legal.
benefits of dumpster diving

What Is Dumpster Diving?

Dumpster diving is precisely as its name describes it – it is the act of foraging through dumpsters to look for something of value. Globally, dumpster diving has increased in popularity amongst travelers looking for freebies in the form of items that can easily be repurposed for personal use or resale.

Although it is seemingly an innocent act, it is essential to consider some of the legalities surrounding dumpster diving.

Is Dumpster Diving Legal?

While dumpster diving is technically legal in the United States, you’ll need to double-check to make sure that it doesn’t conflict with local ordinances, as per the Supreme Court Case of the State of California vs. Greenwood.

As a general rule of thumb, the legality of dumpster diving is legal under federal and state law. You will have to research your own to determine its legality at the county, city, or business-specific law.

What Is Dumpster Diving

Dumpster diving is always illegal on any private property or in any dumpsters or waste disposals with warning signs of locks.

Keep in mind that even if all signs point to dumpster diving being entirely legal in your area, local law enforcement officials still have the right to warn, ticket, or even arrest you on terms of trespassing, disorderly conduct, illegal dumping, or littering, to name a few.

is dumpster diving safe

Is It Safe?

Not surprisingly, there are a wide variety of safety and health concerns to consider when it comes to dumpster diving. Because there is no way for you to know exactly what is in the rubbish, you can’t prepare yourself from a safety standpoint.

Some of the potential health risks associated with dumpster diving include:
  • Cuts from sharp objects (including nails, knives, glass)
  • Exposure to tetanus
  • Bacteria borne illnesses (especially in warmer climates and months)
  • Exposure to pesticides sprayed in dumpsters
  • Contact with harmful chemicals or fecal matter
  • Infections in existing open skin wounds

That’s not even considering some of the food-borne illnesses that can result from dumpster diving food items. While you may hear stories of friends, or friends of friends that have never gotten sick from dumpster diving, consider them to be the anomaly.

Wrap Up

In the end, although dumpster diving might be a great way to come up with some great freebies, the possibility of legal or safety-related concerns should be taken into consideration before you take your first dive. Even if you aren’t searching for food items, you still run the risk of exposing yourself to some pretty nasty things. It is, after all, garbage that you will be handling.