Is it Illegal to Dumpster Dive in North Carolina?

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Is Dumpster Diving Legal in North Carolina? 

Is it Illegal to Dumpster Dive in North Carolina? No, it isn’t, however, each municipality is entitled to its own set of rules.

If you’re planning to dumpster dive for some cool finds you should become familiar with the area you’re scavenging and what the rules are.

In this article we have taken the time to do some of the research for you. To get you started, we have pulled apart some of the laws in the state and we have researched four of the biggest cities in North Carolina where you might want to explore.

When you’re finished, we hope you will have a better understanding and you should be able to answer your own question, is it illegal to dumpster dive in North Carolina?

Dumpster Diving Laws in North Carolina

What are the legalities of dumpster diving in North Carolina? We examine the state and federal law as well as local ordinances.

Federal Law on Dumpster Diving

The case of California vs. Greenwood permits dumpster diving in every state throughout the United States. This law went into effect in 1988 after the Laguna Beach Police Department ordered the bags of trash left on the curb in front of Greenwood’s home to be used as evidence in their search for illegal drugs.

North Carolina Law on Dumpster Diving

While doing a great amount of research to find out if it is illegal to dumpster dive in North Carolina, we contacted the Field Operations Department of Greensboro. It was from that department where we learned there is no known law or regulation in the state that says it is illegal. They did say though, that most dumpsters are kept on private property and they might even be locked up behind a fence, so that would then be considered trespassing which is a law in the state. We will cover the penalties for trespassing later.

Local Ordinances

Although the federal law states that it is legal to dumpster dive across the map, each state has the right to their own local ordinance where you might find that it is illegal in certain cities.

We have taken the time to research the four biggest cities in North Carolina so that you will have the knowledge you need before diving in.

Is it Illegal to Dumpster Dive in Charlotte?

Is dumpster diving illegal in Charlotte, North Carolina? We examine the local law to find out.

According to the Charlotte code of ordinance 10-28, it is prohibited to remove any waste that is placed at the curb for collection unless they have been given the authority by the city. 

For further details and information:

Contact the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department: 704-336-7600

Community Relations website

Is it Illegal to Dumpster Dive in Raleigh?

Is dumpster diving illegal in Raleigh, North Carolina? We examine the local law.

During our research we could not find any law or ordinance stating that it is illegal to dumpster dive in the city of Raleigh. Since we were unable to find an ordinance stating otherwise, we will assume it is legal, however, you will want to be careful not to break other laws while diving in because then it can become illegal.

For further details and information:

Contact the Raleigh general police department line for questions: 919-996-3335

Raleigh City Council website

Is it Illegal to Dumpster Dive in Greensboro?

Is it illegal to dumpster diving in Greensboro, North Carolina? We examine Greensboro ordinances.

The Field Operations Department of Greensboro also told us that there are no known laws or ordinances in the city stating that it is illegal to dumpster dive in Greensboro. They did make it a note to tell us that most of the dumpsters are kept on private property and it is considered trespassing even if there are no signs posted because it is against the law to enter onto private property. They told us that there have been cases where people were found inside the dumpsters on private property and charges were filed against the people, so you must take that into consideration before going in head first.

For further details and information:

Contact the Greensboro Police Department: 336-373-2222

Greensboro City Hall website

Is it Illegal to Dumpster Dive in Durham?

Is it illegal to dumpster dive in Durham, North Carolina? We examine Durham ordinances to find out.

According to the Durham County code of ordinance 20-5 (d) under the section solid waste receptacles, it is unlawful to remove any item from a receptacle, nor is it permitted to climb onto or inside of a solid waste receptacle. The same laws apply for the receptacles that are located at the recycling centers and at the Durham County Residential Convenience Centers.

For further details and information:

Contact the Durham Police Department: 919-560-4600 OR 919-560-4601

Durham, NC website

Violations and Penalties for Dumpster Diving in North Carolina


As previously mentioned, trespassing is considered a criminal offense; there are two degrees to trespassing and you can be slapped with fines of $1000 or more depending on the degree of the crime. You can also expect to spend up to 150 days in jail.

Most of the dumpsters are located on private property and the owners don’t have to post a “No Trespassing” sign for it to be illegal because it is automatically considered trespassing when you step foot onto private property. 


You might not realize that even if you do have permission to be in a dumpster, there are vandalism laws that you will need to consider. In the state of North Carolina one of the most common charges is injury to real property. What does that mean exactly? It refers to anything that is fixed to the land; fences and buildings are perfect examples. If you’re throwing things from the dumpster and you damage a fence or break a window, you can be charged with vandalism. If the court proves that you willfully or wantonly damaged, injured, or destroyed the property, you could be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor and you will face hefty fines along with some jail time.

The best thing you can do is be honest if you make a mistake, but more importantly just be careful not to destroy the property you are on.


Something you might not think about is littering laws. If you don’t clean up after yourself, you could be faced with fines up to $1000 and that’s just for a 1st offense. If you’ve been caught littering in the past, then you might be required to do community service and pay a fine as high as $2000.

Consider taking a broom and a dustpan with you to clean up your mess before you leave the area.

Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct in North Carolina is considered a class 2 misdemeanor and you will be looking at jail time if you are charged with this crime. 

Disorderly conduct is an action that causes a disturbance to other people. There are many things that fall under this category, but the ones that relate to dumpster diving the most are:

  • Refusal to leave after you’ve been asked to do so.
  • Blocking access to a business or causing a disturbance to a business.
  • Fighting or threatening violence.
  • Using obscene gestures or language that can cause a fight.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is also a crime. If you are caught stealing another person’s personal information for the use of opening credit accounts and other vicious acts of crimes, you can be sentenced up to 80 months in jail and facing fines of up to $50,000. In the state of North Carolina, the victim is also entitled to sue for damages in a civil court.

General Rules for Dumpster Diving in North Carolina

If you want to go dumpster diving in the state of North Carolina, you should consider a few things before you set out on your adventure. 


  • Never enter onto private property even if there are no signs posted because you will still be considered as trespassing.
  • Clean up after yourself so that you are not faced with a littering fine.
  • If you’re asked to leave, then leave. There is no need for an argument or nasty gestures. Don’t forget that those things could lead you to jail for disorderly conduct.
  • If you see something with someone’s private information, ignore it and keep digging for something that is of value to you. Don’t risk identity theft, it’s not worth all the time you will spend in jail.

Before diving in for the fun stuff, take into consideration the following safety tips:

  • Always wear gloves. You don’t want to risk getting poked by something dangerous, not to mention how dirty it can be in there.
  • Wear protective goggles or glasses. Your eyes are important and just like with your hands, your eyes can get poked and scratched as well. Liquids could also get into your eyes and cause permanent damage, don’t risk it.
  • Use a pole to dig through the dumpster. If you use a pole or a long broom handle to move things around, then you won’t need to put your hands and arms all the way in.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants. Be sure to cover your arms and legs, leaving your skin exposed can cause severe damage.
  • Always wear close toed shoes. Just like the exposure to other parts of your body, you want to keep your feet covered as well. It would also be a good idea to wear shoes or boots with strong rubber soles that will grip well. 

Final Thoughts

So, is it illegal to dumpster dive in North Carolina? Technically no, it is not, but just like every state, there are separate ordinances in each municipality. Make sure you know where the dumpster is located and the laws in that area before you take a chance of committing a crime. Remember that most of the dumpsters are situated on private property and there doesn’t have to be a sign posted for you to be considered trespassing onto the property. 

If you are curious or you need more information, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality can answer your questions.

Check out our article on the best places to dumpster dive.

Disclaimer: the information contained on 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 providers. If you have any questions about the legalities of the information contained on this website, you should seek legal advice.