Dumpster diving or scavenging through the garbage bins at Walmart may seem like a way to make some money, but is it legal to do?
Because of all the merchandise Walmart throws away daily, you may be wondering if it’s illegal to dumpster dive at Walmart. I’ve done the research, and here’s what I discovered!
Is It Illegal To Dumpster Dive at Walmart?
Although trash awaiting collection is considered public, dumpster diving at Walmart is frowned upon and often illegal. Despite the temptation, dumpster diving is risky, as you can be exposed to harmful foods and chemicals, may be subject to arrest and fines, and may even be banned for life from Walmart locations.
Before you dive into a Walmart dumpster, read what I found out about the legalities surrounding dumpster diving at Walmart!
Why Do People Dumpster Dive at Walmart?
There are several reasons people choose to dumpster dive at Walmart. One reason is that dumpsters contain items like food, clothes, books, dishes, and electronics.
After all, many stores and households throw out items that have minimal to no damage, can be fixed for reuse, or sold to make a profit.
Frequently, Walmart disposes of food items that may still be edible. In one viral news story, Walmart threw out food items that were not expired because it lost power for a few hours.
This practice is not uncommon for Walmart stores. Regardless of the power outage, stores toss out usable food that is either unexpired or still within the acceptable window to eat.
Is It Possible To Get Into a Dumpster at Walmart?
Many Walmart locations use a compactor to minimize dumpster space. However, it’s possible that sites do not use compactors and just toss trash into large bins.
If these bins are not locked, it is possible to open them, and they are large enough for you to get inside to search their contents.
What Are Reasons You Shouldn’t Dumpster Dive at Walmart?
Although it may be tempting to save money and go in search of usable products in Walmart dumpsters, be aware that in every location, dumpster diving is not legal.
For example, regulations against trespassing on private property and other ordinances may leave you with serious repercussions.
Not only that, some items that can be found in Walmart’s dumpsters may contain hazardous materials such as electronics with mercury and other toxic substances and food with expired dates that may be harmful to you.
So, what are some reasons you shouldn’t consider dumpster diving at Walmart?
Reason One: No Trespassing Ordinances
Walmart has the right to remove the trash, and you could get arrested for trespassing if you attempt to remove waste from private property.
With that, most Walmart locations have signs that say “No Dumping” on the dumpsters, and it has on-site security cameras that record you.
Under Trespass laws, individuals who knowingly enter private property may be sued in civil court, and damages can be recovered from resulting losses to the plaintiff.
Even if the items in Walmart dumpsters were not going to be sold, they are still considered Walmart property, and courts may view them as having value to Walmart that it can recover from you in court.
As with shoplifters, under Walmart’s no-trespass policy, violators can be banned from Walmart locations for life.
In addition to signs, dumpster divers should also be aware of any locks that may be present. With that, never tamper with, pick, or attempt to remove any locks or barriers on the dumpster.
Reason Two: Dumpster Diving Is Dangerous For Security
An article from Qualcomm Accelerator discusses how dumpster diving puts everyone in the company at risk.
For example, when Walmart throws out the trash, it may also toss items with personal information.
Although it is a common requirement that items that pose security risks be shredded appropriately before disposal, there is a chance that this process is not followed.
For example, say you accidentally dropped your debit card in the break room trash can.
Then, the break room trash is tossed in the dumpster and may be found by a dumpster diver, who could then potentially fraudulently access your debit account.
What Happens If You Get Caught Dumpster Diving at Walmart?
According to specific ordinances in different locations, dumpster diving can be considered illegal, and perpetrators can be held criminally liable, arrested, and fined.
Since most Walmart locations are considered private property, trespassing is generally not allowed.
So, dumpster divers are regarded as shoplifters and, under the company policy, are subject to a lifetime ban.
Also, dumpster divers may be charged with disorderly conduct, illegal dumping, or littering.
How Do I Find State Dumpster Diving Laws?
According to the Supreme Court Case, the State of California vs. Greenwood, trash waiting to be picked up by collectors is considered public domain.
With that, trash is accessible by all as long as there is no conflict with city, county, or state ordinances.
For this reason, it would be wise to review ordinances near you before dumpster diving, and you can check relevant state laws online by searching under waste or garbage sections.
To know more about Walmart, you can also read our posts on whether or not Walmart recycles plastic bags & bottles, whether Walmart is zero waste, and if Walmart is a good place to work.