What Are The Best Places To Dumpster Dive For Profit?

What if I told you you can access free clothing, furniture, electronics, and other household items? 

You might ask, “what’s the catch here?” 

Well, there’s the chance that you might run into spoiled Chinese takeout and a soiled diaper here and there. 

Yup, I’m talking about dumpster diving. 

Many would think that the rising popularity of dumpster diving in urban areas is cringe-worthy.

Nonetheless, FRUGAL students and parents don’t have a problem with it. 

Some enterprising folks are looking for stuff to resell.

This is probably where you come in. 

This post will explore the best places to dumpster dive for profit.

We’ll also discuss its legalities and why the dumpster diving trend is here to stay. 

Let’s get started! 

What is Dumpster Diving? 

MANY products in our current consumer culture, especially those sold at big box stores, usually wind up in landfills. 

It’s a sad fact, but what else will they do with returned, opened, damaged, or expiring items? 

That’s why dumpster divers worldwide have worked out how to profit from this phenomenon. 

It’s certainly not the most glamorous hustle. 

To go dumpster diving, you might secretly enter parking lots after hours, touch many icky things, and maybe swallow your pride. 

For some, digging through other people’s garbage is too gross.

However, more and more people realize the benefits far outweigh the grime and guilt. 

Blogs catering specifically to dumpster divers are springing up all over the web.

They’re filled with tips on where to go and when to go there to avoid getting caught.

Is Dumpster Diving Illegal? 


As long as one doesn’t break any municipal, county, or state laws, dumpster diving is legal in all 50 states.

When a garbage bag is placed at the curb for collection, it is considered public property, and anyone can take it.

However, you risk being charged with trespassing or even theft if the dumpster is still in a fenced-off area when diving. 

The public may also be prohibited from visiting certain areas of a town or county used for trash sorting. 

It’s best to time your dumpster diving adventures if you’re not too bold about rummaging through trash in front of people in broad daylight. 

Plus, people could complain or contact the police because dumpster diving could be deemed disorderly. 

You could get a warning, a ticket, or even an arrest for inappropriate behavior, not dumpster diving, per se. 

Best Places To Dumpster Dive For Stuff To Sell 

Construction Sites 

Home Construction Underway.

Divers frequent this location because contractors and workers routinely discard anything they consider broken or unfit.

Professional equipment and supplies are routinely set aside on construction sites.

They’re usually resold, reused, or even given to friends and family.

Anything from cabinets to sinks to tiles could be available if the site is being remodeled rather than built from the ground up.

Timber and metal, too, have many potential markets and uses. 

With a couple of brushes and cans of paint, you could give new life to old furnishings and fixtures. 

Making friends with the site foreman can be very beneficial, as you can likely arrange for them to notify you when valuable materials are about to be discarded.

Plus, construction site dumpsters are usually considered private property, so it’s best to know someone to gain free access.

Retail Stores and Malls 

There has been a widespread shift toward more liberal return policies in the retail industry. 

It has never been simpler to return a purchase, with many stores now accepting returns without a receipt and giving customers a whole year to exchange or return a product. 

So, where do all those returns go?

It may be destined for the trash can if it can’t be returned to the store’s shelves.

Stores may also refuse to resell an item if the packaging has been tampered with. 

Shipping products back to the manufacturer isn’t always practical.

That’s why you can expect to find a treasure trove of goodies in the retail store dumpsters.

You can also check out the strip mall or regular mall dumpsters once it’s closed for the night.

There’s a high chance that you might come across brand-new items — everything from clothes to electronics. 

Again, dumpster diving is not technically illegal, but mall security can be tight even after hours.

Check your local dumpster diving laws to educate yourself about what’s allowed and what’s not.

Apartment Complexes 

It’s not uncommon to find random treasures in apartment complex dumpsters. 

And it’s more efficient to sift through a large quantity of garbage at once than to drive around town looking for valuables from individual homes. 

It’s possible to find anything in the trash at residential buildings.

However, during the summer months, when people are most likely moving, unwanted items like furniture, household goods, and outdated electronics are often discarded.

You should also take trash pick-up days into account because those are the days when people are more likely to offload more stuff. 

College Dorms 

Carrying Moving Boxes.

College dorm dumpsters can be a real horde of treasures.

There’s a chance that you might pick up some dorm furniture and even tablets and laptops.

And, of course, there are textbooks, which we all know aren’t cheap. 

You can expect to make a tidy profit if you’re lucky enough to find these through trash diving.

That’s why this is one of the best places to legally dumpster dive.

The best time to dive is before everyone goes home for semester breaks. 

Hundreds of students will be moving out.

Some are looking to declutter their small spaces. 

Industrial Areas 

Industrial zones accumulate quite a lot of rejected items from neighboring businesses. 

Take a look at the companies and manufacturers in your area.

Chances are you’ll find stuff that they produce in large quantities. 

It’s also a great place for collecting old wooden pallets that can be reused or resold.

However, the dumpsters in such areas may be tucked away behind locked gates.

So, it is essential always to observe the boundaries of private property.

You don’t want to get caught dumpster diving in an area where you’re not supposed to be.

Thrift Stores 

Thrift shops that don’t donate any of their proceeds to charity tend to be heartless money machines. 

Most of the time, what we donate ends up in the dumpster because local big-box thrift stores don’t have the staff or space to deal with it. 

This is sad, but it’s intriguing to dumpster divers. 

The good news is that these thrift store dumpsters aren’t usually locked or chained.

Anyone can have dibs on what they throw out!

Electronics Stores 

Most people don’t consider the possibility of salvaging valuable devices from the trash.

In reality, this is where you will find plenty of shiny new gadgets just begging to be brought home.

Whether or not you are interested in tech, stores like Best Buy and neighborhood cell phone providers are good spots to dumpster dive for electronics. 

They frequently dispose of unopened electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

You should probably check their dumpsters once every two weeks.

It won’t take long for other divers to take the good stuff.

Furniture Stores

A Furniture Store.

Most furniture stores now offer damaged items at a discount.

However, some still throw away these items because they’d rather not have these pieces take up space. 

You can find high-priced items here, like lamps, recliners, cabinets, and desks.

You need to know which furniture stores carry high-quality goods. 

Of course, most of what you’ll find will somehow be damaged.

Nothing that few quick repairs can’t remedy. 

If you fancy a furniture flipper, these are the best spots!

Storage Units 

Unpaid storage units are often auctioned off, but the contents are often tossed out if the teams aren’t especially big or exciting looking. 

This also happens when a tenant is relocating out of state and has no intention of taking any of their belongings with them.

The dumpsters at most storage facilities are hidden behind a fence to prevent unauthorized dumping. 

But if you search carefully, you may be able to locate a few that are accessible to the public.

Another option is to follow a vehicle into the property. 

Affluent Neighborhoods 

An Affluent Neighborhood.

We all know how the adage goes: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 

We’re more likely to say that with rich people’s trash.

That’s why an affluent neighborhood is an excellent area to dumpster dive. 

Those who can afford it will toss out perfect items because they don’t have space or want the “next new thing.” 

Who knows what you might find in swanky spots? 

I suggest getting there early, preferably before 7 a.m.

This increases your odds of finding the good stuff before other divers get their hands on them. 

You also want to avoid rummaging through recyclable items households turn in for money.

Many might view this as stealing, and it won’t end well if someone spots you. 

Tips For Maximizing Your Dumpster Diving Profits 

Gear Up 

If you think dumpster diving for profit is something you might take up, then dress for the job! 

It would be best to always have some things on you for your protection, hygiene, and convenience.

Remember that you’re dealing with large trash bins, which may hold dangerous materials like glass, bits of metal, mold, grime, and sometimes even rodents.

You probably have most of this stuff already, but the following are some items you should wear or have on your person when you go diving: 

  • Clothing with full coverage (long sleeves and pants) 
  • Closed shoes or tall boots
  • Cut-resistant gloves 
  • Flashlight or headlamp 
  • Box cutter or knife
  • Grabber tool 
  • Large containers or thick garbage bags 
  • Dust mask 
  • Safety goggles 
  • Wipes, sanitizer, and rubbing alcohol 
  • Stepping stool, stepladder, or a small crate 

Take care while you dumpster dive because you’re automatically a liability to business owners. 

If you get hurt getting in or out of a dumpster or if a product you discover is defective and hurts you, you won’t have many options in the future.

Sure, you can approach a personal injury lawyer.

However, these cases can be a little murky as you knowingly put yourself at risk. 

Regularly Do Your Rounds 

Like thrift shopping, those who devote the most time to dumpster diving are rewarded with the best finds. 

You need to check your prime locations daily to find valuable free items to offer for sale or keep. 

You can save a lot of effort by learning the best times to dive at each location.

And keep in mind that even though a spot has been dry the last couple of times you visited, it doesn’t mean you’ll never find anything valuable there! 

Be Discreet About Your Vehicle 

People in the area may get suspicious if you use a car or park next to the dumpster while you rummage through trash. 

Loading a vehicle with electronics, practically brand-new products, or recyclable items can give the impression that you are stealing. 

Observant citizens might alert the authorities if they see this.

Pay Attention to Dumpster Locks and Signs 

Signage can serve two purposes: warning divers and providing evidence that a business made reasonable safety measures to prevent injury. 

The contents of that dumpster might also be off-limits because they’re hazardous to your health. 

Anyone caught tampering with a dumpster lock faces penalties or jail time. 

To avoid legal problems, don’t ignore signs indicating a company will pursue legal action against anyone caught messing with their garbage.

Join The Community 

Swap tips with other freegans and earn positive karma by helping one another out.

The dumpster diving subreddit is an excellent way to make friends if you don’t already have any.

Final Thoughts 

I hope this list of the best places to dumpster dive for profit has given you a game plan. 

It shouldn’t be too hard for you to put together a list of particular stores in your area based on the categories of businesses I mentioned.

But before you go “foraging” in a dumpster, you should verify the local laws of your state, city, and town to ensure you won’t get in trouble.

Is dumpster diving legal?

Yes, but it is still generally frowned upon, so this hustle will need some planning.

Happy hunting!

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Brooks Conkle Banner Image
Brooks Conkle

Brooks is an entrepreneur, father, husband, & follower of the golden rule. He has over 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur after graduating with a Finance degree from Auburn University. Addicted to starting new business projects, he believes in creating multiple income streams and a life of flexibility. Business should work around your life, not the other way around. He creates content on his website, sharing his projects to help other hustlers in marketing, personal finance, and online business.