Prohibited Materials

Is It Illegal to Dumpster Dive at a Construction Site?

In the past, dumpster diving was thought of as an exercise for people to find food or clothing. However, today, some individuals find it a hobby because of the treasures found in some dumpsters.

Some culprits even make videos of valuables they collect from dumpsters and post on YouTube. That, in turn, encourages more individuals to jump on the wagon. However, the question still lingers on the legality of dumpster diving.

That said, this post will enlighten you on the main causes of dumpster diving, some legal structures around it, and its legal impact to ensure a better understanding of this issue.

Reasons for Dumpster Diving

As stated before, most people go through the content in a dumpster searching for valuable content. Especially on a construction site, there’s so much that dumpster divers can collect for resale and recycling. Here are some of the reasons.

  • To make extra money: Some dumpster divers are not poor, but it’s an activity that assures them of an extra source of income.
  • To find food: Dumpster divers can find food from what the workers ate even on the construction site.
  • To find clothing: The homeless know people throw away their unused clothes. That’s why most of them visit dumpsters.
  • To get metals: These are always in demand for recycling, and dumpster divers know the gold mine is in a construction site.
  • To get wood: Some construction site dumpsters contain wood pieces that are easy to sell to local households.

So, Is Dumpster Diving Illegal?

Dumpster diving in public is legal in all 50 States, except where prohibited by local laws. However, dumpster diving is illegal if the dumpster is on private property. You can sue the perpetrators for trespass and property damage.

That’s because they are stealing as long as the divers don’t have permission from the site owner. Even the dumpster rental company only acquires ownership after collecting the debris. Before then, the site owner has exclusive ownership rights to the content in the dumpster.

In cases where the construction company places the dumpster in a public space, that becomes a different case. However, it’s advisable to place privacy signs on the dumpster if it’s in public and the site owner has permission from the municipality.

It’s also illegal for dumpster divers to break or tamper with the locks of a dumpster at a construction site. That is considered stealing because they lack permission to access the content. However, it’s good to familiarize yourself with your state laws on dumpster diving.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Dumpster Diving?

Now that you understand some of the actions that would determine dumpster diving as illegal, let’s look at the legal impact of the same.

As stated earlier, the site owner can sue the dumpster divers for trespass or vandalism. For instance, when perpetrators sneak into the dumpster, they break into the premises. In the process, they destroy property by breaking the lock.

Also, the construction company might be aiming to recycle some of the debris for other uses, so stealing will cost them losses. Then, the construction company has the right to sue the perpetrators for the destruction of property, which could cost the intruder a fine or jail term.

Another example of the same is when stealing debris. The dumpster divers are not careful about how they conduct the exercise. They could drop harmful debris in the process, causing harm to construction workers. Site owners have the right to sue for causing harm to their workers.


One of the best ways to avoid dumpster divers is working with a reliable dumpster rental company like NowRush. That way, you get a dumpster that fits within your construction site, serves the ideal purpose, and is away from the public. Feel free to contact us or visit our site today and learn more about our offerings to contractors and site owners.