Is Dumpster Diving Legal In California? [2023]

Is Dumpster Diving legal In California

 According to the 1988 Supreme Court ruling, the act of dumpster diving is not forbidden in California, but still, a few ordinances apply to it. 

It’s necessary for you to be mindful of the trespassing rules of the state. California is a popular state for dumpster diving because of its enormous population, hence, the large number of waste sources.

Dumpster diving has now become a very common term and many people are already familiar with the concept. For those who have no idea, it’s basically an act of searching for valuable items in dumpsters, either for personal use or for selling and earning purposes.

Dumpster diving was done by people to collect items for their subjective use but eventually, it is becoming a way of part-time source of income. With luck on your side, you never know what worthwhile items you can find in a dumpster. 

Is Dumpster Diving Legal In California? 

Dumpster diving is legal in California because no state law prohibits it. Though there are a number of ordinances that might make it possible for dumpster divers to be prosecuted in the state so be aware of any signs that warn against it near dumpsters.

Dumpster Diving Laws In CA 

Dumpster Diving Laws CA 

There are a few laws you should be mindful of as mentioned below

  • It’s prohibited to intrude a private property
  • Taking items belonging to someone without their permission is illegal 
  • Creating a mess or trash while diving is not allowed

Do Check Is Dumpster Diving Illegal In Alabama?

Dumpster Diving Laws In Cities of CA 

Here are the laws for individual cities of California below.

Los Angeles 

Dumpster diving is legal in Los Angeles though scorned as unsanitary. The legal laws regarding it include not taking anyone’s belongings, and intruding a private property.

San Diego 

Dumpster diving is legal in the city thanks to Greenwood v. State of California. There are many places to go bin diving in San Diego, only while keeping the same state laws in mind. 

San Jose

San Jose has made dumpster diving legal without any specific laws other than trespassing and littering. 

Riverside County 

In Riverside County, dumpster diving is a legal act while keeping in mind all the local municipal laws.

Ventura County 

The state law does not restrict dumpster diving however some central coast city ordinances have made it illegal and Ventura County is one of them. 


It is legal to through trash in Fresno in search of any valuable items. However, legal laws must apply. 

Orange County

Orange county following state law, has made dumpster diving legal. Yet, you must respect the laws of trespassing and littering. 

Is It Legal To Go Dumpster Diving Behind Stores In California? 

Most of the store’s back areas are deemed as their private property. So, it might get you in trouble to trespass in a private locale. Even if there are no trespassing signs, you still need to confirm or take permission before diving in. It is however legal if the dumpsters are placed in public areas. 

Is Scavenging Illegal In California? 

Yes, scavenging is considered an illegal activity by state law as it is an act of unauthorized people digging through your recycling containers, on both public and private properties. There is a fine or jail time penalty for doing this act. 

Do Read Is Dumpster Diving Illegal in New York?

What Do Dumpster Divers Look For? 

What Do Dumpster Divers Look For

Dumpster divers look for anything practical either for their personal use or for selling purposes. Some of the items include: 

  • Clothing
  • Food 
  • Furniture items
  • Electronics
  • Gadgets 
  • Makeup
  • Gaming accessories 
  • Or any similar items that look useful

Where Is Dumpster Diving Most Common? 


You will see most dumpster divers around 

  • Electronic stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Clothing or make-up brands
  • Retail stores 
  • Game shops
  • Furniture, pet stores, etc.

Read Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater in California?

What Do You Call People Who Dumpster Dive? 

Most of the dumpster divers self-identify themselves as Freegans. They consider themselves the friend of the ecosystem by recycling and reusing waste products.

Is It Better To Go For Dumpster Diving At Night? 

dumpster diving at night

Each person has a different opinion regarding the best time to dumpster dive. Some say it’s best to do it early morning as every store cleans and trashes before opening. However, it can be the same at night as the stores also trash before closing. Also, you can avoid traffic and public at night. 

Dumpster Diving Risks & Tips to Remain Safe

Be vary of these risks & be mindful of the safety tips below.


  • There are high chances of getting ill from bacteria or dust
  • You might get cuts from sharp objects or broken glass pieces
  • Dumpsters can sometimes be very messy, unsanitary, and unhygienic 
  • Many people get their feet or legs stuck under heavy objects

Safety Tips

  • Wear a mask before you dive into the bin
  • Wear gloves to avoid direct contact with anything
  • Wear sturdy boots to protect your feet from stepping on sharp items
  • Wear clothes that are appropriate according to the weather
  • Try to cover your legs to avoid any direct cuts on the skin
  • Bring a torch, dive stick, and all other items you think would be needed during the process 

Read Are Fireworks Illegal in California?

What Happens If You Get Caught Dumpster Diving? 

Nothing will happen unless you are dumpster diving by trespassing on private property. It is legal to dumpster dive in public areas so you don’t have to be afraid of anything. However, trespassing may get you arrested, charged, or even imprisoned. 

Is Dumpster Diving Trespassing? 

Dumpster diving in public areas is legal in California. So, it is not trespassing. It would be trespassing if you intrude a private property or take someone’s belonging without their permission. 


Dumpster diving is lawful in California which makes many fanatics happy. It is a profitable act if you are doing it properly. Dumpster diving has become a source of income for many people. However, the legal laws must be kept in mind. You should also consider all the precautions for your safety. 

JD Lipton