Is Dumpster Diving Illegal in Michigan

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. You can read the full disclosure here.

The Legalities of Dumpster Diving in Michigan 

People have asked, is dumpster diving illegal in Michigan? Dumpster diving or scavenging, no matter what you call it, it has become a popular event among many, but it does have risks when you’re not careful.

We’ve done the research and we know that in 1988 the Supreme Court ruling of California vs. Greenwood made it legal across the states to dumpster dive, but there are stipulations to the law.

We discuss the legalities of dumpster diving in the state of Michigan as well as some of the major cities within Michigan.

Cities and municipalities have the right to put into place their own laws in regard to dumpster diving, so it’s not only important to be safe while doing it, but you must also be familiar with the area you plan to dive and know the laws. 

Although the state of Michigan has deemed that garbage placed at the curb becomes property of the public making dumpster diving legal, many cities disagree with the state and they have put their own laws into place.

Before diving into the trash on the streets throughout the state, let’s look at what the law says about dumpster diving in the five biggest cities in Michigan.

Dumpster Diving Laws in the City of Detroit

We look into the legalities of dumpster diving in the city of Detroit.

According to section 22-3-1 of the Detroit city code of ordinances, it is illegal for anyone to collect, disturb, or transport waste from the streets, alleys, or public places of the city without a license. If you’re caught in a dumpster or transporting waste without a license you can be slapped with up to $500 in fines and even jail time.

To avoid getting yourself in trouble you can obtain a license from the Detroit police department, but you must be aware that your vehicle will also need to be inspected before a license is issued. You will need a covered truck bed or an enclosed vehicle to pass inspection. A tarp or other water tight containers will be permitted but you will need to show them upon your inspection.

When applying for a license you will need to know the make and model of the vehicle you will be using as well as the tag number. You will also need to state the intention of your collections, where you plan to do your scavenging, and you must possess a valid Michigan drivers license. 

We were unable to determine the fee for the license, but we do know that it is an annual license and it expires on August 1st of each year.

For More Information Contact:

Detroit Police Department Headquarters

1301- 3rd Street

Detroit, Michigan 48226


Dumpster Diving Laws in the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan 

We look into the legalities of dumpster diving in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In doing our research we couldn’t find a law that was against dumpster diving in the city of Grand Rapids. You should use caution though before diving in and remember that there are other laws that can be broken if you’re not careful.

There are laws against trespassing, disorderly conduct, and littering. Stay out of areas where no trespassing signs are posted and do not cross over fences, do not open gates, and never break locks. There is nothing that’s so important that you need to risk time behind bars.

Always clean up after yourself and if you are asked to vacate the premises then kindly oblige. Keep the noise down so that you don’t face disturbance charges and don’t start a fight with someone who asks you to leave.

The best thing you can do before diving in is to get permission from the business or homeowner. It’s a good idea to contact the proper authorities to be sure that dumpster diving is permitted in the area where you want to scavenge.

For More Information Contact:

City of Grand Rapids

300- Monroe Ave. NW.

Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503


Dumpster Diving in the City of Warren

We look into the legalities of dumpster diving in the city of Warren, Michigan.

In the city of Warren, under the city ordinance code section 16-5 (a) it states that it is unlawful for any person not authorized by the city to collect, pick up, or remove any trash or recyclables that is placed by the curbside, however, a person who wishes to collect trash or recyclables can obtain a junk peddlers license from the city clerk.

A junk peddlers license can be purchased for $35.00 for the first vehicle and $25.00 for each additional vehicle or trailer. If you are planning to dive for profit you will also need to purchase a secondhand goods license for $35.00. Both permits are good for one year and they expire on March 31st. 

Be sure to adhere to all trespassing, disorderly conduct, and littering laws to avoid the risk of having your license revoked. 

For More Information Contact:

City Hall                                                                                                 

One City Square Warren, MI. 48093


Junk Peddlers License

Business of License Application

Office of City Clerk

One City Square, Suite 205

Warren, MI. 48093




Dumpster Diving in the City of Sterling Heights

We look into the legalities of dumpster diving in the city of Sterling Heights, Michigan.

While researching the laws in Sterling Heights we were unable to find an ordinance code, however, we did find out that you do need to have a license to scavenge for trash in the city. 

You will need to obtain a business license which will require a one-time fee of $50.00 and in addition to that you might also need to apply for a separate registration as a peddler or refuse collector.

Before diving in you should contact the city clerk’s office for information regarding the registration and licensing procedure.

For More Information Contact:

City of Sterling Heights

40555- Utica Road

Sterling Heights, MI. 48313


Business Registrations and License

City Clerk’s Office


Dumpster Diving in the City of Ann Arbor

We look into the legalities of dumpster diving in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In Ann Arbor the municipal code of ordinance 2:8, titled Scavenging and Unauthorized Storage, states that no person shall collect or remove solid waste or recyclables that have been put out for city collection.

We have found no evidence indicating that dumpster diving is permitted with a license, however, you should contact the city clerk’s office to be sure there is no permit in place for this action, especially if your intent is to resell your finds.

If you find there is no special permit for dumpster diving in Ann Arbor, don’t risk fines and/or jail time knowing it’s illegal in the city. 

For More Information Contact:

City Clerk

Larcom City Hall

Second Floor

301-E. Huron Street

Ann Arbor, MI. 48104



In Conclusion

In conclusion, we hope that we answered your question, is dumpster diving illegal in Michigan? As we mentioned, it is legal in the state, however, you can see that four out of the five biggest states we’ve chosen either require you to obtain a license or it isn’t permitted at all.

Since laws do change periodically, it would be advised that you contact the numbers we’ve provided to be sure nothing has changed. It’s always best to double check than to wind up in trouble. It’s also smart to know the area you will be diving in since some jurisdictions can be different on one side of the road from the other.

As always, safety should remain a priority. Adopt these habits when diving into the dumpsters:

  • Always wear old clothing; long sleeves, long pants, closed toed shoes, and gloves.
  • Use a long pole or heavy stick when scavenging through the trash to avoid getting poked, cut, or bitten by an animal.
  • Carry a flashlight and use it to shine into the dumpsters
  • Always dive in a well-lit area.
  • Clean-up your mess when you’re finished.
  • Keep the noise level to a minimum to avoid a disturbance.
  • If you’re asked to leave, kindly do so.
  • Never cross a no trespassing area, don’t hop fences, and never cut locks.
  • Most importantly, know the area and the laws about dumpster diving before going in!

Disclaimer: the information contained in this website should not be taken as legal advice and should not be construed as such. We do not represent that the information contained herein is true, accurate, or complete. No attorney-client relationship is created, and no attorney compiled this information. The information contained is offered as information only and the reader can take it at his/her own risk. You should not rely on this information as legal advice or rely on it as an alternative to the advice of an attorney, counselor-at-law, or other legal source provider. If you have any questions about the legalities of the information contained in this website, you should seek legal advice.