Neighbor Going Through My Trash! (Doing This Stopped Them)

I Caught My Neighbor Going Through My Trash

If you live in a city, there’s a good chance you’ve had to deal with a neighbor going through your trash can from time to time. It’s a frustrating situation, but there are some ways to discourage neighbors and strangers from going through your trash.

It is perfectly legal for your neighbor to go through your trash as long as they’re not trespassing on your property. Once your trash can is placed on the curb, it is considered municipal and state property. However, there are city ordinances in some places that do not allow it.

Thankfully, there are other laws and standards your neighbors could be breaking if they go through your trash. If you want to learn more about that and ways to deter your neighbors from going through your trash, you’ve come to the right article. 

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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

To deter neighbors from going through your trash, use a bright light and/or camera on the trash bins. Also, when the trash is not on the road, store them in a lockable bin. This will keep the trash from neighbors and animals. 

Here are our favorite products from Amazon:

1. Ring Smart Lighting: This is compatible with Alexa and is a bright motion-activated light with a camera. You must have an Echo 4th generation, Echo Show 10 (3rd generation), or a Ring bridge to connect it with Alexa and other Ring security devices. 

2. Keter Storage Shed: This shed is made to hide and lock trash bins away. It is made of durable and UV-protected material that will not rust, chip, or rot. It is lockable and easy to open to pull trash bins in and out. 

3. EXVIST Camera and light: The light and camera combination is useful for getting a good look at who is getting into your trash. It acts as a great surveillance and security camera. It’s easy to set up, and you can easily view footage on any device. 

Neighbors and My Trash

Why neighbors want to go through your trash, who knows, but there are a few concerning reasons. However, they could just be hoping you throwing away nice stuff.

Either way, in this section, we look at what they might be doing and how to stop them. Let’s dig in!

How Can I Stop My Neighbors From Digging Through My Trash Cans?

If it is legal to go through someone’s trash in your area, you can still stop your neighbors by posting bright lights and a security camera on the trash bins while on the curb. When they are not on the curb, place them either in a garage or in a locked shed. 

It is legal in most areas to go through someone’s trash, but there are areas that do not allow it. In some counties and cities, you will be fined and possibly be given jail time.

Definitely, look at the trash laws in your area. 

Is It Illegal to Go Through Someone Else’s Trash?

It is legal in all 50 states to go through someone’s trash. However, some city ordinances do not allow it. Additionally, if the trash is not on the curb and is on private property, dumpster diving is considered trespassing. 

Additionally, if the trash pickers are getting your personal information from your trash bin, that is called identity theft.

People have stolen information from bank statements, old health insurance cards, etc. They also might open a credit card under your name with credit card offers that were tossed.

How to Stop Garbage Pickers?

To stop garbage pickers, keep your trash bins away from the street until the morning of trash day rather than leave them out all night for people to go through. When you have it on the street, put up a camera to deter neighbors from going through it. 

When you don’t have the trash bins on the street, put them in a shed or garage or simply put a lock on them. It is trespassing if a neighbor comes onto your property.

Whether they are going through your trash or not. 

You might also enjoy our post on If Your Neighbor Can Move Your Trash Can

Do People Look Through Garbage?

People do look through garbage. Sometimes it’s to find electronics they can use, clothes they can wear, etc. However, some people go through the garbage to find personal identification information. 

When you get a bill, bank information, or even a credit card application – shred it before throwing it away. Identity theft is serious and can ruin your credit, among other things, until it’s cleared up. 

Thieves can use the personal information they find in your garbage to get more information and then use it to purchase things in your name.   

What is Proper Garbage Can Etiquette?

It’s not good etiquette to go through someone’s trash, even if they’ve put it out on the street and it’s now public property. If there is something specific you are looking for, ask your neighbor if they are willing to give it to you.

You should also not put your trash in their trash bin even if yours is full and theirs is not. You can ask them if they are okay with you doing that, though.

Without their permission, it could be illegal in your area, and you could be fined for it.

What is Dumpster Diving?

Dumpster diving is the coined term for someone going through the trash to either find people’s personal information or to find something of value. People go dumpster diving behind businesses they like and houses they are near. 

Dumpster diving is not illegal in any of the 50 states, but some city ordinances have laws against it. In some cases, dumpster diving or going through someone’s trash can be considered trespassing.  

For example, if your trash can is not on the curb but is next to the house, a dumpster diver would be trespassing if they went through your garbage then. 

Locks for Trash Cans

You can’t always have your trash can locked because waste management will need to empty the bin, but you can keep them locked when they are not left out for the trash service.

In this section, we will talk about ways you can lock your trash bins. 

Can You Lock a Trash Can?

You can lock a trash can, but it needs to be unlocked when waste management comes to pick up the trash. However, you don’t have to have the trash bin ready the night before; you can put the trash bins out the morning of pick up. 

Putting your bins out early in the morning will stop people who like to scavenge at night and people who like to steal your bin.

If you’re not an early riser, you can set up a camera and floodlight system with a sign that says “24-hour video surveillance.” This should discourage people from going through your trash.

How Can You Lock a Trash Can?

You can lock a trash can by either strapping or mounting a lock on the lid and base of the can, or you can put your trash bins in a locked shed or garage. However, you must put your trash cans out on the curb unlocked for waste management on trash days.

Most people put their trash out the night before, but if you don’t mind putting it out in the morning before trash pick up, you will not have to deal with people who go through trash in the evenings or at night. 

You might also enjoy our post on What to do If Your Neighbor Is Using Your Trash Can

How Do You Shield a Trash Can?

You can shield your trash can by hiding it from the street or locking it. If you have a garage or lockable shed, that is ideal. But you can also place a lock on the trash can by either screwing a lock system on it or using straps. 

Sometimes simply moving the trash can to the back of the house is enough to get people to stop looking through your trash.

Especially if you put up a no trespassing sign. This way, the neighbors know that you don’t like people coming onto your property uninvited. 

How Do You Keep People From Getting in Your Trash?

Most of the time, people go through other people’s trash in the evening after it’s been put out on the curb. Therefore, you can either wait to put out the trash until the morning, or you can put up a bright flood light and camera system to deter them. 

Neighbors sometimes think it’s okay to go through others’ trash, and they might not know it’s bothering you, so talk to them first if you know who it is.

If you don’t know who it is, try putting up a camera first.

How Do You Build a Fence to Hide Trash Cans?

To hide your trash cans, you want to put up a privacy fence. You can put up a premade fence or build your own out of wooden boards or bamboo slats. The goal is to hide the trash bins, so make sure the fence is not too see-through.

Because your trash bins are often kept outside, you want to make your fence weather-resistant. So, dig posts or steel poles far into the ground and cover the holes with concrete or gravel.

Also, add a protective stain or waterproofer to the wood.


Theft is hard to define when it involves your trash. Most people consider trash fair game, and sometimes it is, but not always. This section covers what is and is not considered theft. 

How Can We Stop Recycling Scavengers?

In some cities, it’s illegal to go through trash and recycling, but in many places, it’s not illegal– unless the trash is not on the curb. If you want to stop scavengers, put your bins out in the morning rather than at night for people to go through. 

You can keep your trash and recycling bins either in your garage or behind a fence, or in a shed.

This not only makes your home look more appealing without trash bins sitting out, but it deters neighbors from going through your trash and recycling. 

Is It Theft to Take From a Trash Bin?

It’s not illegal for someone to go through your trash, but if they are stealing personal information to use, then they are committing identity theft. However, it’s hard to know the purpose of why they’re going through your trash.

If they are targeting your trash and you suspect identity theft, place a light and camera out. This will either deter them or give you evidence to use against them.

Another thing you can do is to keep your trash can at your house until the morning of trash pick up, so the thieves won’t have all night to go through your trash. 

How Do I Stop People From Using My Trash?

Your trash can is part of your property, and you can keep your trash bin on your property and away from the street until the morning waste management is coming. However, as soon as you put it on the curb, it becomes public domain.

It might not be legal in your area for others to use your trash, so check with your local government or with the local waste management department.

Also, if you’re having a problem with neighbors putting trash in your can all the time, we have a dedicated blog post on what you can do to stop them.

Why Do People Go Through Other People’s Trash?

Some people go through others’ trash because they are looking for electronic parts or tools they can use. They look for clothes or shoes, or anything they can use. However, some people go through others’ trash because they are committing identity theft. 

People who steal identities do so by taking bank documents, credit card applications, bills, and legal statements.

To protect yourself from frauds like these, shred all documents that contain personal information.

Is Going Through Other People’s Trash Illegal?

Technically, in all 50 states, it is not illegal to go through other people’s trash. However, there are some cities and counties that have city ordinances in place where it is illegal. There are also neighborhoods that have standards that will not allow dumpster diving. 

If you live in an area with many college students or teens that do not make a lot of money or do not make their own money, it is common for them to go through the trash to find items they can use. 

Is Dumpster Diving Illegal?

Dumpster diving is illegal in some cities and is against some neighborhood communities’ standards. However, on a state level, it is legal in all 50 states. In many places, going through someone’s trash or dumpster diving is acceptable. 

If it is legal where you are, but it bothers you when a neighbor goes through your trash, just talk to them.

You can ask them what they’re looking for so you can save it for them next time instead of throwing it away. If that doesn’t work, keep the trash off the street until you must put it out. 

You might also enjoy our post on What to Do if Your Neighbor Is Throwing Trash in Your Yard

Related Questions

What are the Laws on Trash Cans?

Laws and regulations vary in each area, but there are usually standards for the weight and size of the trash bin. Some areas charge more for heavier trash material, and most areas have a specific bin you must use to have your trash picked up.

In Marietta Georgia, they specify that there cannot be anything sharp in the trash bins that could harm the city workers.

They also, like many other areas, specify what to do with yard clippings and tree limbs. Check with your local sanitation department for your sanitation standards. 

Is It Illegal to Leave Your Garbage Cans Out?

You can get a citation if you leave your trash bins out too long. Some areas are more serious about this than others, and the length of time it out varies on location. Although, many areas say it needs to be out no more than two weeks. 

However, it is best that you put your trash up before dark each night after trash pick up. This way, animals that come at night will not go through your trash.

And if your trash is put away next to your house, neighbors are less likely to go through it. 

Where Should I Place My Garbage Cans?

Generally, you should put your garbage cans at the end of the driveway or on the grass next to the curb. In most areas, it should be two to three feet from the road or any other objects. However, every county or city has varied rules. 

You should check with your local waste management or sanitation department for specific rules and guidelines.

In some areas, trash is only picked up on the side of the road opposite your house rather than on your curb or driveway. 

Final Thoughts

It’s annoying when neighbors go through your trash – especially when they are making a mess or are just nosy neighbors.

If you have such a neighbor, we hope you can fix things by talking to them first and maybe even have a good neighborly relationship. 

But if that doesn’t work, you now have the tools you need to make them stop going through your trash.

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