What law am I breaking by using someone elses Dumpster?

A quick tour through the alleys of my neighborhood reveals a number of Dumpsters bearing a sticker warning “no dumping, $500 fine.” I assume that dumping, in this context, refers to the placement of waste in these recepticles by anyone other than the person or entity renting the Dumpster. Now, much as I’m sure they would like to believe otherwise, the Waste Management Corporation is not empowered to fine people for these violations; we actually have to be found guilty in a court of law. So, is there actually a law against using someone else’s Dumpster, and what are the actual penalties, or is this just bluster on the part of WM?

I’m sure the law is similar in other places, too, but in Texas:

Well, technically you’re stealing, in that the store that rents the dumpster is paying the Waste Management people to haul away their trash by volume, ie dumpster load. If you put your trash in Random Store’s dumpster, you’re getting the store to pay to have your trash hauled away. But I doubt that’s what they’re thinking of with the signs.

Years ago, my brother hosted a party at the house while my parents were away. He carefully cleaned up afterwards and took the trash bags to a nearby grocery store to dispose of the “evidence”. Somehow, the refuse company which owned the dumpster was able to get his name and about a month later, sent him a bill for $100 for “waste removal”. He never paid it, and it was never pursued by the company or the store. Based on the contents of the trashbag, perhaps he made it through a “boys will be boys” loophole of an illegal dumping/ theft of services law.

In the absence of any criminal law, I believe you would be committing a civil tort, probably conversion if I had to guess (since your waste is interfering with the property rights of the person owning or renting the Dumpster).

IANAL, etc.

It’s “theft of services”…


…a.k.a. “stealing”…


…which last time I looked was prosecutable under the criminal code.


DDG: What State are those laws in? Are they part of the Uniform Penal Code?

Possibly tresspassing, too?

There might be contractual limits between the hauler and the business about the sorts of things that can be tossed. When the hauler brings the garbage into the transfer station or disposal facility, the hauler, and therefore the customer, are on the hook if there is “unacceptable” solid waste in the load; i.e., medical waste, air conditioners, paint, etc. They don’t want to pay for disposal of your crap, so to speak.

We’ve caught people dumping any and everthing imaginable into the dumpster at the fire station. The oddest part is that they become indignant, saying “I pay taxes to support this outfit” and in their minds that justifies dumping stuff in our can that they can’t put out at the curb. Go figure. :rolleyes:

A police office actually caught my father putting stuff into a Dumpster and wrote him a ticket on the spot for illegal dumping. As the officer explained it (very nicely) there were several reasons for making it a municipal ordinance:

Theft of services – the business has to pay for the removal of trash

The dump has restrictions about what can and can’t be dumped. The dump tells the Dumpster companies, who tell their customers. For all the police officer knew, my father could have been dumping nuclear waste.

The businesses in town really didn’t want people hanging around their back doors, whether or not they were carrying trash. Strictly speaking, the shopping mall was private property, although it was patrolled by the local police.

In the City of St. Louis, trash collection is a municipal activity and the waste receptacles are provided by the city. I’m guessing the city can impose just about any kind of restriction they want.

My father had to pay the fine, but no, they didn’t make him pick up the garbage.