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Is dumpster diving cardboard legal?

Dumpster diving cardboard

The radio is full of news about how China no longer wants our paper and plastic, resulting in low commodity prices and buildups at recycling centers. Despite all that, a bit of sleuthing suggested our best option for bringing home bulk cardboard is still dumpster diving.

Truckload of cardboard

In Dungeons and Dragons terms, I consider myself Lawful Good. So I was a little leery of rooting through the dumpsters for two reasons.

First, I had a feeling dumpster diving was illegal. The internet, on the other hand, suggests that as long as you're in a public area (thus aren't trespassing) and don't create a disturbance, you're likely okay on the legal front.

But is taking cardboard that folks were hoping to recycle ethically sound? This is a trickier topic since recycling cardboard lowers energy usage and saves trees at the upstream end of new product creation. On the other hand, we'll be using our cardboard to grow food, sequestering carbon in the soil and reducing energy use during production and shipping.

In the end, I figured dumpster diving cardboard was at least ethically neutral. Which is a good thing since my hungry garden needs cardboard now!

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Here in TN, if you try to take anything - ANYTHING - from the local "convenience Centers" (read: local county dump), it's illegal, considered theft and you will be arrested, although I've seen the "attendants" take stuff home with them. Don't get me started on why that's "okay", but the local populace doing the same is considered "theft", especially when the locals are just recycling stuff.

I have, on rare occasions, dumpster dived on "private" property behind stores and offices, so long as no one was around to see me. Whether that's also considered "theft" is unknown. I do remember seeing something in the news about 12 years ago where the Supreme Court stated that if someone put stuff out on the curb for pickup by the local garbage collection folks, that it was considered to be "public property" and anyone could take it without it being considered theft. I have availed myself of that SC opinion numerous times when riding around my local area and seeing all the great unbroken stuff that people throw out for no good reason. In fact, most of my furniture comes from people putting it out by the curb for "bulk pickup day". This includes, solid pine dressers and furniture, bookcases, shelves, etc. ::shakes head:: We are so rich in this country and yet we're oblivious as to how wealthy we really are.

Comment by Nayan Sat Mar 24 09:08:13 2018

Oh I just love you guys!

p.s. I never would have thought of this. Thanks!

Comment by Terry Sat Mar 24 10:28:01 2018
You still play Dungeons and Dragons? That sounds fun!
Comment by Maggie Sat Mar 24 13:22:52 2018
My husband dumpster dives for cardboard boxes all the time. He gets a lot by just asking. The Dollar Store locations have been pretty nice about it as are furniture and/or appliance stores.
Comment by Pam Kaufman Sat Mar 24 18:01:12 2018
Always better to recycle local— smaller carbon footprint & build local soil plants, environment
Comment by Jean Sun Mar 25 14:37:34 2018

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime