Is It Illegal To Dumpster Dive in Alabama?

Technically, it is not illegal to dumpster dive in Alabama. That being said, trespassing and damaging property ARE illegal, and people who enter onto private premises to dig through a dumpster can still be arrested and charged with crimes.

Is It Illegal To Dumpster Dive In Alabama? (Discussion)


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Dumpster Diving

Dumpster diving is the act of rummaging through dumpsters or other trash bins in search of edible food or other usable items that others have thrown away. 

The act of dumpster diving has not been barred by federal or state law.

In1988 after the Supreme Court ruled that once a person, restaurant, or business throws something into an outdoor dumpster or other receptacles, that item is ” public domain”. This means that it’s up for grabs to whoever is brave enough to dig through the trash.

However, this does not stop ordinances from being put in place by local and musical entities that prohibit it (which can result in citations, fines, and jail).

If the dumpster is located on private property, behind gates/fences, and is locked, getting into the receptacle could result in a police response.

Just because actual dumpster diving is not illegal, trespassing, cutting locks, and otherwise messing with private property is illegal.

Most people don’t like dumpster divers because it leaves a mess.

Also, businesses don’t want their customers to see people digging through the trash.

In addition to that, many people have concerns over security.

People may be rifling through the garbage to gain personal information such as credit/bank statements and other information that could be used to steal someone’s identity or money.

What Will Happen If I Get Caught Trespassing While Dumpster Diving?

If you are caught dumpster diving on private property you may be:

• questioned by the police

• ticketed

• fined

• given a court appearance

• arrested 

Specifically, in the state of Alabama, criminal trespass is considered a class A misdemeanor.

If you’re caught dumpster diving on private property in Alabama, you could be: 

• sentenced to up to one year in the county jail 

• sentenced to one year hard labor for the county

• a fine of up to $6,000

It hardly seems worth it for a bag of chips or some shampoo.

If there is any question about whether there will be trouble, the diver could always just ask for permission.

Ideas For Places To Dumpster Dive In Alabama

There are quite a few places to go in Alabama where you can dig to your heart’s content. These include:

1. After Garage Sales

If you hit the neighborhood garage or yard sales after hours, chances are you’ll find a lot of stuff at the curb. 

2. Grocery Stores

There are grocery stores that don’t enforce any trespassing rules. Some companies even, kind of encourage it. Because they have “green” policies that encourage reducing, reusing, and recycling. Check the policies of certain stores online to find out more.

3. Public Parks

It may sound like slim pickings, but you never know when a bbq or picnic may have had too many leftovers to carry. Sometimes other things like blankets, chairs, and balls get tossed. You never know.

4. Hardware Store

Often, hardware stores will need to toss out returned or damaged items. They can’t resell custom-made supplies and, obviously, shouldn’t sell things that were used or defective.

5. Beauty/Cosmetic stores

As with hardware stores, beauty stores cannot resell opened or used make-up, lotions, etc. So they all go right into the dumpster.

6. Electronic Stores

Not too often, but they will throw away items that are not working or slightly damaged. So if you are handy with electronic repair or don’t care about dings or scratches, then it’s the place to go.

7. Bakeries

Where everything needs to be fresh and pretty, quite often, the bakery is a gold mine, because they have to make room for new, fresh products. If a batch of something gets a bit too toasty, it goes in the trash, falls on the floor, trash. 

8. Apartment Complexes

These are always great spots because people are always coming and going. So there’s anything from furniture and clothing to books and kitchen items.

9. Thrift Stores

Sometimes these stores simply get more donations than they can handle. So if they have nobody to take them, they will throw them away.

10. Florists

If you’re just looking for something cheery for your house or for the office, florists often do away with flowers that have only a few day’s life left in them.

Why Do People Dumpster Dive In Alabama?

There are many reasons that people dumpster dive in Alabama. They include:

1. Food Insecurity 

Almost 40 million people, mostly children, face food insecurity at some point in their lives. The United States throws away over 80 billion pounds of food each year. Most of that is simply because the packaging is damaged, someone returned it, or it’s nearing the expiration date. People, sadly, must dig through dumpsters to feed their families.

2. Reduce Waste

The United States has a huge problem with waste. Not just food, but everything seems to be  disposable nowadays. We don’t repair, sew, or throw some duct tape at a problem. We throw it away and get a new item. There has been a push among environmental workers to dumpster dive to get salvageable items, clean them up and donate them to people who need them. 

3. Side Hustle

A lot of people who you see diving into dumpsters are neither in need or trying to help anyone, except themselves. They pick through the trash looking for anything they can sell at junk yards, flea markets, yard sales, etc. Some people even do it full time and can rake in up to 3-4 thousand dollars a month. 

Is It Illegal To Dumpster Dive In Alabama