Dumpster Diving in Wisconsin (Is it Legal 2024)

Wisconsin, home to 5.8 million people, generates a substantial amount of waste daily. 

Surprisingly, up to 30% of this waste can be repurposed, recycled, or consumed. Dumpster diving is an emerging practice that aims to directly address this issue.

So, in this article I’ll show you the legal consideration of dumpster diving in Wisconsin, best places, and estimated earnings. 

Let’s begin!

Dumpster Diving in Wisconsin

Dumpster Diving in Wisconsin

Wisconsin provides ample opportunities for shopping enthusiasts with its abundance of shopping centers and bustling cities.

Madison, the capital of the state, boasts over 200 shopping centers, which makes it an attractive destination for dumpster diving enthusiasts seeking profits.

The Fox River Mall in Appleton, Wisconsin is the largest mall in the state. 

It’s a popular destination for divers who often find significant treasures, especially after weekends or major sales when unsold items are discarded.

Milwaukee, the largest city in the state, also offers numerous opportunities due to its high concentration of residential and commercial areas.

Dumpster diving can be both a method of reducing waste, as around 40% of the U.S. food supply is discarded each year, and a way to find valuable items at no cost.

Is Dumpster Diving Legal in Wisconsin

According to the state’s jurisdiction, there are no explicit laws that prohibit dumpster diving. However, you should remember that this doesn’t mean it’s always legal. 

If the dumpster is on private property, or if the trash is still within property bounds, going through it could be trespassing, a misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time. 

Moreover, the Supreme Court case of California v. Greenwood in 1988 established that individuals do not have an expectation of privacy for discarded items. 

Consequently, dumpster diving is not a protected activity, and participants could face legal consequences depending on the circumstances. 

Is Dumpster Diving Illegal at Night in Wisconsin

Dumpster diving is not explicitly illegal at night under Wisconsin state law. However, it may be considered trespassing if the dumpster is on private property.

If a dumpster is easily accessible and not marked with ‘No Trespassing’ signs, it’s generally considered public domain. 

But if a dumpster is behind a locked gate, in a fenced area, or marked as private property, entering that area could be considered trespassing. 

This misdemeanor offense can result in a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail term of up to 90 days.

You should also notice that these laws can vary by city or county. 

For example, Milwaukee city’s municipal code (106-31) prohibits the removal of any waste material deposited in any street, alley, or public place. 

Best places to go dumpster diving in Wisconsin

When it comes to dumpster diving in Wisconsin, there are several areas that are known to yield high-quality finds. 

Madison, the state’s capital, is a bustling city with numerous businesses and a high student population. 

This often leads to a surplus of discarded items, especially during student move-out times at the end of semesters.

Milwaukee is another urban area with fruitful diving opportunities. 

The turnover of goods is high, and the chance of finding quality items in good condition is quite promising; with over 600,000 residents

The city’s East Side and Riverwest neighborhoods are well-known among dumpster divers.

Finally, Green Bay and La Crosse, both home to large universities, have potential for profitable dives, especially during student move-out periods. 

Here are a few other general locations for dumpster diving:

  • Garage Sales
  • Yard Sales
  • Construction Sites
  • Cosmetic and Jewelry Stores
  • Video Game stores
  • Grocery Stores
  • Affluent Neighborhoods

How Much Money You Can Earn from Dumpster Diving?

Dumpster diving, an unconventional method of earning, can surprisingly generate a decent income, particularly in Wisconsin.

Each haul’s profitability varies widely depending on location, timing, and a bit of luck. 

On average, a dumpster diver can make between $20 to $30 per day selling recyclable items. Some, however, have reported earning as much as $250 per day.

In 2018, a resident of Dane County, Wisconsin, reportedly made approximately $2,000 in a year just from dumpster diving and selling the recovered items. 

This encompasses a wide range of items including electronics, furniture, and non-perishable food items. 

This can rise if one is adept at refurbishing or upcycling recovered items, or has a knack for finding valuable items.

However, it’s important to note that dumpster diving requires a significant time investment and isn’t always glamorous. 

It requires patience, determination, and a good understanding of the local market and recycling policies.

So, if you are planning to dumpster dive at Idaho, Missouri, Rhode Island, or Georgia; first you should check the state laws before going to your hunt.

What should I Pick While Dumpster Diving?

In 2018, an EPA study revealed that the US generated about 292.4 million tons of trash, of which 69 million tons were recycled, and 25 million tons were composted. 

Out of this, a staggering 50% of the material being discarded could be reused. 

You should consider picking items such as furniture, electronics, books, clothes, and sometimes even unexpired food, provided it’s sealed and safe to consume. 

What are Safety Considerations for Dumpster Diving?

You should always wear sturdy gloves, long sleeves, and durable footwear to protect against cuts and scratches. 

You should also carry a flashlight, especially if you’re diving at night, to avoid unseen hazards.

Also, keep an eye out for biohazardous material. Around 15% of dumpster content can be classified as biohazardous according to a study by San Jose University.

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