How To Get Rid Of Garbage – Is It Illegal To Throw Trash In A Dumpster?

by Patricia Costello

What can you throw in a dumpster? The answer might seem pretty obvious at first – garbage. However, as you dig deeper, things are more complicated and may even bring in some legal requirements and contraindications. There are things you can get rid of by dumping them in your bin, but there are also a few things that should never go in there.

Now, at this point, you might ask yourself – can you use someone else’s dumpster? What about a public dumpster in the middle of the road? Are they legal to use? Again, the answer is a bit more comprehensive and may involve various requirements. A bit of education will work a long way. But as a general rule of thumb, if you plan to trespass someone’s private property to throw trash in their dumpster, it is illegal.

So, what should you know about other requirements and regulations?

Is it illegal to throw trash in a dumpster?

Yes and no. A dumpster is there for a reason – to collect trash. But not all the trash. Certain things can only go in your bin. Some other things can be left in a dumpster, but there are particular requirements. Otherwise, you risk getting caught on camera or in the act by a police officer, which might lead to a pricey fine.

Rules vary from one country or state to another. Make sure you are aware of local laws and regulations before making any decisions. You might have seen people dumping large bags of trash by dumpsters – even if it is illegal, it can be done, but it does not mean that you have to be one of those people. Do your homework first.

So, what options do you have?


Things you can throw in a dumpster


Here are some of the most common things you might want to know about – again, local rules may vary, so double check upfront.

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In most states – California is usually an exception when it comes to trash laws, regular batteries can go in a dumpster with no problems at all. When it comes to regular batteries, it does not mean that you can bin large items like car batteries. Instead, the list includes:


  • 9V
  • Button Cell
  • AA
  • AAA
  • C
  • D


Given the world’s situation and the rush to recycle and reduce waste, it might be wiser to simply recycle them. You can find recycling centers in most municipalities. You might as well pay attention the next time you go shopping – many large stores have battery recycling boxes as you get in or out.

Some people may remember the times when you had to recycle single use batteries. Rules have changed a little, so this is no longer a requirement. Back then, alkaline batteries had decent amounts of mercury in their composition, but this has changed in the 1990s.

Aerosol cans

Some countries have recycling bins for aerosol cans, plastic, metal and glass. Knowing the local laws will guide you in the right direction. In the USA, aerosol cans are generally accepted in dumpsters. Whether it comes to cooking sprays or hair sprays, they can go in with no issues at all. There is, however, one general rule everyone must respect.

The respective cans must be perfectly empty. If your can is not empty, but nearly there, simply spray it out to ensure it is empty. Partially full cans are not allowed in a dumpster. The reason? Easy – under certain conditions, they can explode and cause a fire or harm someone.

Household junk

Generally speaking, household junk is accepted in a dumpster, with the only condition to ensure it is not hazardous. What does it mean? If something can explode, react or catch fire under particular conditions, it should not be left there. The same rule applies to toxic or corrosive materials.


Unlike most expectations, you can throw appliances in a dumpster, but again, there are some rules. Whether it comes to your old dryer or a washer that no longer works, you can get rid of such things if you drain all the hazardous fluids first. It might feel a bit complicated if you have no clue what you are doing – try recycling them instead.

You can often give your old appliance away if you buy a new one. You can also find professionals who will take them away from you for a low fee. Refrigerators represent the most common problem, as there are lots of liquids to drain. Therefore, it is just simpler to hire someone else instead.

When it comes to electronics, some states allow them in a dumpster, while others do not. It is better to simply find a recycling center for such things, not to mention posting them online for free donations. You get rid of things you do not need, while someone else will happily reuse them.

Yard waste

From a technical point of view, natural junk is not necessarily garbage. It does not mean that you can dump it in the middle of the road though. All in all, things like leaves, storm debris, sticks or dead leaves can easily go in the dumpster

Things you cannot  throw in a dumpster

It is more important to become familiar with things that cannot go in a dumpster, rather than the ones that can go in there. Some of them are purely dangerous and can harm others, while others will cost you money if you are caught.

Some of the things that should not be thrown in a dumpster include:

  • Asbestos
  • All kinds of hazardous materials
  • Adhesives
  • Contaminated items – from absorbents to mulch
  • Hot water tanks
  • Medical waste
  • Oils and fuels
  • Household cleaning fluids
  • Ink
  • Resins
  • Non-alkaline batteries
  • Propane tanks
  • Undrained appliances
  • Paint
  • Tires

Consequences of throwing illegal trash in a dumpster

Imagine this scenario – you want to get rid of a few things that are not allowed in a dumpster. Whether you put them in a bag that goes in another bag or you simply do it at night, you risk some severe consequences. Most commonly, you will have to pay a fine. There might be cameras around, you never know.

Things can get even worse if someone has an accident due to your trash. You are a tattoo artist and you try to get rid of some needles. You throw them in, then a homeless individual gets stung while browsing the dumpster. What if a full aerosol can explode on a hot summer day when someone throws something in the dumpster?

Such situations may lead to more severe situations and you may even risk going to prison if someone gets injured.


Bottom line, is it illegal to dump trash in a dumpster? The answer depends on another consideration – what are you trying to get rid of? Certain things are allowed in dumpsters, while others should never get in there. Make sure you become familiar with the local laws and regulations, as they vary from one area to another.

It is also worth noting that you can throw trash in a public dumpster or your own bins. You cannot use someone else’s dumpster and imagine you will never get caught.​

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