Is Dumpster Diving Illegal? (A Quick Answer For Each State)

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Arbitrage and flipping products for profit entail finding undervalued items to sell them at a reasonable price. My wife and I went crazy when we first discovered a Goodwill Outlet near us where we could buy a huge amount of clothing by the pound (as well as other goods).

However, what’s better than paying for your items by the pound?

How about getting them for free?

The only ways to get free stuff to flip are to get stuff from your family/friends, sell things from your own trash, or…wait for it….dumpster dive.

While you might feel like you risk a bit of embarrassment by dumpster diving, the payoffs are twofold: saving items from the landfill and hopefully making a bit of money! Or, at worst, finding some cool stuff for yourself.

However, your free items can get expensive very quickly if you break the law while dumpster diving. Knowing the legalities of dumpster diving in your state can help you meet your goals, whether you’re flipping on eBay or just keeping stuff for yourself.

However, most of us who aren’t teenage hooligans don’t have much to be worried about.

It is legal to dumpster dive in most states since the State of California vs. Greenwood trial in 1988, where evidence was recovered from the trash. The Supreme Court stated that searching trash is legal as long as it is consistent with city, county, or state ordinances.

Obviously, we’re going to avoid dumpsters that are locked, posted “no trespassing” or on private property. But what about the rest?

locked dumpster - illegal dumpster dive

What are the state laws applicable to me and you? That’s what you find out in this article, alongside the best way to check your city rules regarding the activity. Towards the end, we get into the specific tricks of the trade that yield the maximum returns for minimal effort when you dumpster dive professionally.

Is It Legal or Illegal To Dumpster Dive In Your State? (Full List)

–> This list is alphabetical so feel free to scroll down to just your state.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Alabama?

It is legal to dumpster dive in Alabama provided that the dumpster is not on private property and is open.

Dumpsters that are locked or surrounded by fences are illegal to dive into in the state of Alabama.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Alaska?

Dumpster diving is legal in Alaska as long as you don’t liter or break trespassing laws in the process. As long as you are not a nuisance to the local municipality, you will be left alone.

In some neighborhoods, the residents might raise disturbance complaints against dumpster divers.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Arizona?

While dumpster diving is technically legal in Arizona, almost all the cities in the Copper State have passed ordinances against it. You can get booked for littering, trespassing, and creating a social disturbance in various Arizona cities if you dumpster dive and get caught.

In interviews with local reporting teams, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Chandler police have been public about the possibility of arresting dumpster divers.

Overall, the money one can make from dumpster diving is not worth the consequences of doing so in Arizona.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Arkansas?

It is legal, but if you get sued by the “garbage owner,” the laws favor them over you. Sometimes, trespassing laws are invoked even on garbage that is on public property.

Overall, dumpster diving remains legal, but you must be cautious because the law favors those to whom the garbage belongs.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In California?

Dumpster diving is made a punishable offense in California through the tactical use of municipal laws.

Technically, dumpster diving is legal but is considered criminally unhygienic, in breach of privacy, and synonymous with littering, and the authorities can use this as a buffet to pick your penalty.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Colorado?

Dumpster diving is perfectly legal in Colorado as long as you don’t trespass on private property or pry open a locked dumpster.

You must also be careful not to litter in the process because local municipal laws can take strict action against flinging garbage out of dumpsters.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Connecticut?

Connecticut has outlawed dumpster diving, making it illegal on the grounds of privacy in its Public Act No. 97-110. Therefore, any attempt at dumpster diving in the state can land you in front of a judge justifying how your actions did not risk anyone’s private information.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Delaware?

Delaware isn’t as strict about dumpster diving as some of the other states. The act is legal at the state level, though city ordinances can contradict this.

Generally, dumpster diving on public property is not illegal in Delaware.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Florida?

While dumpster diving is legal in Florida, the littering laws in almost every city are pretty tight and can get careless divers in trouble. Moreover, trespassing onto private property for the purpose of dumpster diving remains illegal.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Georgia?

In Georgia, you can legally dumpster dive if the dumpster is on public property and is not locked.

Locked garbage, even on a public curb, is considered private property, and diving into it qualifies as theft in the eyes of state law.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Hawaii?

Hawaii is more relaxed about dumpster diving. It is legal to dumpster dive in the state, but one has to stay clear of the trespassing laws. As long as the garbage owner doesn’t pursue legal action, you’re in the clear.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Idaho?

It is entirely legal to dumpster dive in Idaho, with very few cities doing anything to restrict the act. Generally, you need to steer clear of private property, curbs inside gated communities, and locked garbage when dumpster diving in Idaho.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Illinois?

It is legal to dumpster dive in Illinois as long as you have a license. *Chicago and many other cities in Illinois have made dumpster diving a licensed activity, and engaging in it without an appropriate license can result in legal action.

*If you want to dumpster dive in Chicago, you need a “Private Scavenger” license from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (“BACP”).

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Indiana?

It is legal to dumpster drive in Indiana but not if you trespass in the process.

At the city level, littering laws can apply, so you need to be very careful when dumpster diving because local authorities don’t like people making a mess when they make a side income.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Iowa?

It is legal to dumpster dive in Iowa as long as you don’t get on the wrong side of local authorities. If you get onto the municipality’s radar (whether through littering or by creating a disturbance), hundreds of seemingly irrelevant rules will be invoked to create legal trouble for you.

The rule of thumb for dumpster diving in Iowa remains to leave the surroundings of a dumpster cleaner after the dive than they were before it. Taking pictures can also help in case disingenuous authorities try to blame you for littering.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Kansas?

Kansas dumpster diving is legal as long as you don’t break trespassing laws in the process. Please note that gated communities and even multi-family units can consider their public access garbage as private property. Dumpster diving there can lead to trouble.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Kentucky?

Dumpster diving in Kentucky is legal but is subject to city-level ordinances and the municipality’s seriousness in curbing it.

Generally, people don’t get in trouble for dumpster diving without causing a ruckus. But if one litters or gets onto private property, the authorities take action.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Louisiana?

Dumpster diving in Louisiana is legal, and authorities are pretty relaxed about it.

Even at the city level, there is not much legislation to restrict the activity. Still, trespassing and privacy rules apply, and if you litter, action can be taken against you even if you are on public property.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Maine?

Dumpster diving in Maine remains legal on the state level, with the city-level ordinances protecting privacy and private property. In other words, you can dumpster dive in most cities and towns in Maine as long as you don’t get onto private property in the process.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Maryland?

When you dumpster dive on public property in Maryland, you don’t break any state-level laws unless you litter.

Dumpster diving on private property requires permission, which most owners don’t grant. We advise checking your local ordinances before dumpster diving in Maryland.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Massachusetts?

Dumpster diving in Massachusetts is legal as long as the act doesn’t break other rules or laws.

Some rules you can inadvertently break when dumpster diving are:

  • Littering
  • Causing social disturbance
  • Trespassing on private property

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Michigan?

While dumpster diving in Michigan is legal, Local City Ordinances make it impossible. There are quite a few areas in Michigan where you can dumpster dive on public property, but you should look up local ordinances to avoid trouble.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Minnesota?

You can legally dumpster dive in Minnesota if you don’t breach any local ordinances. Most cities in the state require only that you don’t trespass or litter. This makes dumpster diving in Minnesota harmless for the diver.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Mississippi?

Dumpster diving in Mississippi is legal in public places except for locked dumpsters. Some corporations mandate locking their dumpsters because homeless people can eat from them and get sick, which is a legal liability.

As long as you look like an arbitrage professional or resell scavenger, you won’t be bothered when diving into an open dumpster on a public curb. Avoid dumpsters that have a “no trespassing” sign.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Missouri?

Dumpster diving has legal status in Missouri, but the local trespassing laws are pretty strict. There are instances of a curbside dumpster being treated as private property.

We recommend cross-referencing local ordinances if you want to dumpster dive in Missouri.

Is it Legal To Dumpster Dive In Montana?

In Montana, dumpster diving is legal, and many professional resellers already engage in the activity. The extent to which it is common lowers dumpster diving’s stigma. However, that does not mean you can trespass or litter.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Nebraska?

While legal, dumpster diving in Nebraska is subject to the local ordinances of city, town, and rural municipalities. Most have no explicitly-stated rules against the activity, but trespassing and littering rules can be invoked to discourage it.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Nevada?

In Nevada, dumpster diving is legal if you are subtle. If you get too bold, social disturbance can be cited as a cause, and you can get in mild trouble. As long as you don’t trespass or litter, the risk of dumpster diving in Nevada is worth it.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In New Hampshire?

There is no legal risk if one dumpster dives in New Hampshire because dumpster diving is permitted at the state level. Local ordinances mainly restrict the activity to public dumpsters, and municipal rules concern littering.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In New Jersey?

Dumpster diving in New Jersey is legal, but you can get interrupted by authorities even when diving in a public dumpster. These interruptions can lead to a few questions, but legal trouble comes when you’re littering or are on private property without permission.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In New Mexico?

The New Mexico state laws don’t prohibit dumpster diving. The activity remains legal but does not supersede property rights or rules regarding hygiene. You can dive into public dumpsters as long as you’ve checked local ordinances and are sure the city municipality won’t have a problem.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In New York?

Dumpster diving in New York is legal and common to an extent. Stay clear of dumpsters that are fenced or have a ‘no trespassing sign, and you’ll be in the clear. Authorities don’t even act when people dumpster dive for food, which poses a health risk. Resell scavengers are in the clear.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In North Carolina?

North Carolina hasn’t outlawed dumpster diving, but its definition of private property can land divers in trouble. A mall’s parking lot, for example, is considered the mall’s property, and diving into a dumpster there is treated as theft. Curbside dumpsters without locks are legal to dive into.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In North Dakota?

Dumpster diving in North Dakota is legal. This doesn’t mean you can get onto private property or pry open a locked dumpster. Potential legal issues with dumpster diving include accusations of theft or littering. So, maintain cleanliness around the dumpster and avoid private property.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Ohio?

It is legal to dumpster dive in Ohio. But like in most states, local ordinances and municipal rules supersede this legality. Public dumpsters, for the most part, are okay to dive into, but ones surrounded by a fence, on a property’s lawn, etc., should be left alone.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Oklahoma?

On the state level, dumpster diving remains legal in Oklahoma, but some cities in the state restrict it with hygiene, littering, and social disturbance rules. Whether you can get away with dumpster diving depends entirely on your city’s view of the activity.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Oregon?

Dumpster diving in Oregon is Illegal in every context except on public curbs. It is easy to confuse public curbs with private ones, which can land one in trouble with Oregon authorities. Divers are advised to triple-check the property status of a dumpster before targeting it.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has not outlawed dumpster diving. It remains legal at the state level and is subject to local city rules. You might get arrested if you breach privacy, property, or littering regulations. In most instances, dumpster diving is overlooked by the authorities.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Rhode Island?

Rhode Island has no state-level restrictions on dumpster diving, but cities within the state have ordinances that can be restrictive.

To dumpster dive in The Ocean State, you need to ensure the dumpster is on public property, maintain cleanliness, and avoid raising flags with the local municipality.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In South Carolina?

It is legal to dumpster dive in South Carolina because there are no state rules restricting the act. Like most states, city ordinances and rules supersede this permission. This means a city can make dumpster diving legally problematic, but that hasn’t happened in South Carolina yet.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In South Dakota?

South Dakota dumpster divers are in the clear because the state hasn’t outlawed dumpster diving. However, littering or trespassing can still land one in legal trouble. The best way to avoid issues is to learn about local ordinances and remain subtle in your operations.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Tennessee?

While Tennessee hasn’t made dumpster diving illegal, some municipalities within the state have laws against it. There are cities where diving into a public dumpster is legal, but many cities cite privacy, hygiene, and property rights as the basis to outlaw all dumpster diving.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Texas?

Dumpster diving in Texas is legal, and while cities have the option to outlaw it on the local level, most cities have not done so. That said, Texas property rights are some of the strongest ones in the union, so you don’t want to be in a dumpster on someone’s property.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Utah?

Dumpster diving in Utah is legal, but you can get in legal trouble if you litter or trespass onto private property. Dumpster divers in the Beehive state have to be very careful when choosing a dumpster because only public dumpsters are legal to access.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Vermont?

Dumpster diving in Vermont is not legally problematic at the state level. Local municipalities can have issues with the activity, but nothing of note has happened on this front. Still, it is better to reference local ordinances before dumpster diving in Vermont.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Virginia?

Dumpster diving in Virginia is legal, and while cities have the option to make it illegal on the local level, most cities look the other way. Still, trespassing rules and hygiene regulations can be invoked if you cause trouble or are the subject of a complaint.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Washington?

While dumpster diving is legal in Washington, local Municipalities can enforce littering rules and outlaw it. Moreover, trespassing laws are upheld in the entire state. So, you can dive in public dumpsters wherever dumpster diving isn’t synonymous with littering in the eyes of the city government.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In West Virginia?

Dumpster diving in West Virginia is legal on public property only. Curbside dumpsters within gated communities as well as dumpsters in public are considered private property, and you can be charged with theft for diving into them.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Wisconsin?

You can legally dumpster dive in Wisconsin as long as you don’t trespass in doing so. Private property rights supersede your “right” to dumpster dive, leaving public dumpsters as the only legal targets. Even then, city ordinances can outlaw it though this has yet to be done.

Is It Legal To Dumpster Dive In Wyoming?

Dumpster diving in Wyoming is legal. Specific cities have the power to outlaw or restrict the practice, but this hasn’t happened on a notable level. It is crucial to avoid dumpster diving on private property, though, because trespassing is illegal in the entire state.

How Can I Check My Local Ordinances?

dumpster dive for food and flippable items
Where you dive dictates what you’ll find.

In almost every state, the city rules supersede the allowability of dumpster diving. Because local ordinances can get enforced easily, it is better to stay updated on your city’s rules before dumpster diving.

The problem, however, arises when the authorities are disingenuous in answering queries. If you ask the local municipality whether you can dive into a public dumpster, you will be told it is problematic even if it isn’t.

To check with local ordinances, you should call as a concerned citizen who has witnessed dumpster diving.

If you position yourself as a resident and say that you want to complain about someone who is dumpster diving, you will get one of two responses:

  • “Where?”, or 
  • “Is it your dumpster?”

When you are asked whether it is your private dumpster, you can assume the local rules only prohibit diving into private dumpsters. If you’re asked “where,” you should say, “on the side of the road.”

If they further push you regarding the specific address, then dumpster diving, in general, is not allowed, and the municipal authorities want to book the person you’re complaining about. In other words, it is not prudent to be that person.

If you say, “on the side of the road” and are told that the authorities can’t do anything about that, you know that it is safe to dumpster dive on the side of the road.

5 Tricks of the Dumpster Diving Trade

1. Pick The Right Dumpster

Dumpster diving for profit is a game of odds. If you pick a dumpster near a commercial plaza, chances are, you’ll get more toys, damaged furniture, and decor items than you would get in a residential dumpster.

The closer you are to a spot with a higher volume of salvageable treasures, the higher your chances of finding them. Of course, you need to be sure that the dumpsters are on public property and not what is considered “mall” or “market” property.

2. Make Friend With Other Divers

If there are experienced divers in your area, don’t avoid them! This is especially true if you are interested in dumpster diving for food. Most divers are eager to share their knowledge as there is typically more food than any one person can eat before it spoils.

3. Don’t Get Nervous

Dumpster diving is the art of spotting treasure in the trash, and that cannot happen with a quick nervous peak. Getting into the dumpster and looking around patiently will get you the best results. If you think doing this in broad daylight is too embarrassing, you can swap shifts and dumpster dive at night. Just take a flashlight!

4. Cover A Higher Volume

trunk full of stuff from dumpster diving
Huge haul of Easter Candy. Not sellable, but tasty!

Volume here refers to numbers. Dumpster diving is a game of statistics. The more dumpsters you cover, the higher the likelihood of you stumbling across salvageable treasures. If you are worried about the gas prices, you can use a bicycle.

5. Make It A Two Person Operation

If you have a friend or a partner who can come along, you can look less “out of place” dumpster diving, even in posh areas. All you have to do is pretend that one of you lost something that the other is fishing for. This is a great way to get over the initial fear of dumpster diving.

Final Thoughts: Is Dumpster Diving Illegal in Your State?

By default, dumpster diving is legal in the United States unless it is outlawed or restricted by a state, county, or city. The most regional level government has the highest say in the matter.

Knowing whether dumpster diving clashes with property, littering, or dumpster diving rules in your city is the key to dumpster dive without legal trouble. The best way to ensure this is to pretend to complain about dumpster diving in your neighborhood and dissect the authorities’ reaction.

However, you should understand that, if you dumpster dive, you’ll eventually get caught and you’ll want to have a defense ready to go.

You’ll probably find more stuff than you could ever use while dumpster diving. Instead of letting it go to landfills, why not try your hand at making some money? Flipping dumpster items online can be not only fun but extremely profitable.

–>Learn what items to look for and how to get started reselling.

In the past couple of months, my wife and I have made over $2,000 just by flipping items from a storage-unit dumpster near our house.

So get out there, there are finds to be had. May the dumpsters ever be in your favor!

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