i want to go dumpster diving but im not sure if its legal
I think you should go dumpster diving, regardless of whether it is illegal or not. No, wait. I think you should pretend like dumpster diving is the most forbidden, heinous kind of law breaking there is. That way it will be more thrilling when you actually go do it. ;-)
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Oh, I forgot to mention the cardboard box story. If you happen to get into any confrontations with people asking silly questions like, "Why are you here?", "What are you looking for?", or my favorite, the fakely courteous "May I help you?", the usual trick is to tell this pesky person you are looking for cardboard boxes, ostensibly because you are going to be doing some moving, or better yet helping someone else move. This is a pretty good story, and it will deflect most people. I'm not sure what you say if this pesky person is nosy enough point out that some of the objects you are pulling out of the dumpster are not cardboard boxes. Perhaps, "Oh! I just found that. And it looks like it might be useful..."
There are currently no state laws for Alabama that outlaws dumpster diving, but you need to check with your city. Its at that level, that many cities are banning it because of the mess some people make and leave in the process.
You can Google the question (I did) and it appears it depends more on your local laws than state laws. It also matters on the location of the dumpster. The contents of one that is on a public street really belongs to the department of sanitation or whoever owns the dumpster. It is unlikely that they care. A dumpster that is on private property is still their property until it is removed. So if its sitting outside a manufacturing plant you may have to get permission. An interesting note here ---- a common way for people to steal (employees) is to take something they want to smuggle out and throw it into a dumpster with the idea of getting it out later. Some companies check up on what is thrown out for this reason. So unless you get permission they could consider you as a accomplice with someone on the inside. I think the bottom line with this is to just use common sense, and protection from infection. Its your own fault if you get sick or injured while digging in the trash. You can't hold someone else responsible for anything that you bring upon yourself.