Good Samaritan Law: No Excuses for Not Donating

Store managers will claim that food in their dumpster cannot legally be consumed by humans, or that they cannot donate or give it away. This is either ignorance or lies. If you have the patience to educate, you may want to bring up the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that has has been the law since the 1990s.
Some people suggest telling store managers you are collecting food to feed livestock or for a compost pile and if you don’t want to make a political point on the waste this will usually work. Some managers will even tell you when certain items are discarded (ie; produce), and encourage you to come get them. The main thing that food stores are worried about is¬† someone getting sick from what they throw away, and then suing them.
There is backlash in a number of communities on the issue of “theft” of recyclables from city recycling bins. Metal can often be sold at prices that make scavenging aluminum (especially cans with a fixed deposit), old appliances, and even power cords a viable cottage industry. A number of cities now have laws against this kind of dumpster diving with a vehicle. Most cities will not harass the small-scale scavenger with a granny cart or bicycle.
“Warning, do not play on in or around dumpster” — such signs are for the protection of the people who own or rent the dumpsters, in case someone gets hurt, to avoid liability.
Wikipedia on dumpster legality Includes some info on the legal situation in Europe and Canada.
Supreme Court ruling on dumpster diving When it ruled in the Gravewood decision in 1988, the US Supreme Court was looking to protect cops, not dumpster divers. Nonetheless, their ruling is the overall US law, unless a municipality specifically makes trash picking illegal.
“Paghat the RatGirl” on dumpster legalities Well thought through for the US.
Bargainshare Discussion on Dumpster Diving Legality
Dumpster Diving and Privacy Law A Massachusetts lawyer’s rather negative take on the freedom to go through the trash.
Reprint of Full Disclosure Article What Detroit, Michigan has to say about dumpster diving.
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (reprint) How the FBI dives to get its goods, based on the 1988 Supreme Court decision. ( source: https://freegan.info/ )

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