The Other Side To Skips; Dumpster Diving?

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We all know what skips are: large open-topped containers used for waste which are transported by lorries. Skips can be hired from companies such as Reds Skip Hire in Basildon, Essex for a variety of purposes and projects which require the need to store large amounts of waste.

From construction debris waste, to material clearance for large scale cleaning jobs, skips are useful storage waste containers which can help to give you space when working on larger scaled projects.

However, you may or may not be aware of a more controversial activity happening in skips known as dumpster diving. Dumpster diving, also referred to as “skip diving”, “skipping”, “binning” or “canning” is a form of salvaging waste from skips or rubbish bins.

Dumpster divers may sift through commercial, industrial or residential rubbish in the hope of finding items of interest and in fairly good condition that have been discarded by their previous owners.

You might be wondering what things people are looking for when they go out dumpster diving, the truth is it could be anything! As people hire skips for different reasons, this means that the content from skip to skip will differ significantly.

However, it isn’t just skips which are a goal for dumpster divers, as they may also target landfills and household containers for hidden treasures.

Although finding a winning lottery ticket or the latest iPhone would be striking gold, people dumpster dive for a variety of reasons in the hope of finding different things, whether they’re foraging for tasty treats or perhaps looking out for antique furniture.

As a result, it’s not just poverty which results in dumpster diving; individuals may be professional dumpster divers who seek to turn discarded items into profit.

Risky Business

However there appears to be some grey areas surrounding the legality of dumpster diving.

In the US, dumpster diving is legal unless prohibited by local regulation. According to the 1988 Supreme Court Ruling (California vs. Greenwood), items which have been thrown out by an individual are then considered to be the public’s domain.

On the other hand, it seems that in the US and UK, you could be in trouble if you are trespassing on another person’s property in order to dumpster dive, especially of you are accessing a property which specifically has signs warning against trespassing.

Furthermore if a property is private or is in an enclosed area, then this could also be regarded as trespassing, or even theft according to an article looking at the legality of dumpster diving on LegalMatch.

An Article from The Guardian in January 2014 reported that three men were arrested and charged under the 1824 Vagrancy Act, after they’d allegedly been seen taking food from the bins behind Iceland supermarket. However the outcome ended up being that the men were not prosecuted due to an upsurge of criticism, which included tweets from Iceland’s Chief Executive.

Furthermore, in 2011 a woman from Essex who’d been given food by a friend which had been thrown out by Tesco following a power cut admitted she had handled stolen goods, and was given a conditional discharge.

The law in England and Wales states that, “A person commits theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.” This suggests that although someone has thrown something away, this doesn’t mean that they no longer own it. Therefore, if it can be proven that the item which has been discarded has a rightful owner, it would then be illegal to take it.

However further blurred lines occur on the matter when you begin to consider the motivations behind dumpster diving. John Spencer, Professor of law at Cambridge says that an act of theft requires a “mental element of dishonesty” and feels that if an individual genuinely considers that an item is ok to take, then this isn’t being dishonest.

So clearly there are risks attached to dumpster diving which could potentially land you in deep water. Yet there appears to remain a rather grey area surrounding the legality of dumpster diving, and the penalties one may receive if caught taking items with a rightful owner as previous cases and new stories have highlighted.