ALABAMA (WHNT) — We’ve all seen the videos on social media and various platforms of people finding treasure hiding in the trash, but is it legal to dumpster dive?
While “binning,” “garbing” or “skipping” (slang terms for rummaging through the garbage) isn’t technically illegal in any of the 50 states, trespassing and damaging property definitely are.
Stepping onto private property, hopping a fence or walking through a gate in order to dig through the trash can absolutely lead to being arrested and charged, along with some hefty fines.
For example, it is illegal to go through the garbage in residential areas, while you need permission from commercial property owners, but public property is free game for dumpster divers (so long as you’re not breaking any city, county or state regulations, that is).
Needless to say, there’s no shortage of people sharing what treasures they found on their dumpster diving adventures.
In a 1988 case known as Greenwood v. California, the Supreme Court ruled that rummaging through the trash is acceptable as long as local laws aren’t being violated. Items thrown away then, are considered public property.
With the popularity of dumpster diving, some businesses have taken to putting signs or locks on their bins to prevent foraging. Messing with either qualifies as criminal.
Whatever you’re searching for in your dumpster diving missions, your best (and safest) bet is to do your research on local laws before you dive.