Dumpster Security: Protecting Dumpsters from Illegal Activity

by | Jan 16, 2024

Dumpster Security: Protecting Dumpsters from Illegal Activity

Dumpsters seem to be a magnet for annoyances ranging from dumpster diving to illegal dumping, fires, drug deals, and more. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With some proactive and conscientious dumpster security efforts, you can protect your dumpster and the surrounding area from illegal activity.

The Undesirable Activities That Dumpsters Attract

Protecting dumpsters and what they contain is a must regardless of your business’s industry, size, and location. Here are some of the main risks associated with weak dumpster security and unauthorized access.


People illegally dumping junk is nothing new. It’s sometimes referred to as midnight dumping or fly-tipping. Having a commercial dumpster puts you at risk for people looking to offload old electronics, scrap, or general garbage without consequences.

Dumpster Diving

Dumpster diving isn’t just for those looking for treasures they can use or resell. In some cases, the intent is much more nefarious. Divers may be seeking customer data and other personal information for personal gain.


Dumpster fires (the literal kind) can result from employees not following best practices for waste disposal. But they also can occur when outside parties dump or toss certain items as well. Whether accidental or intentional, fires pose an obvious safety hazard.

Illegal Activities

Dumpsters are often in secluded areas that offer the cover of darkness desired for drug deals, prostitution transactions, and other illicit activities. Remove the opportunity and reduce the likelihood of illegal happenings on your grounds.

Basic Dumpster Security

Tips for securing dumpsters and the areas surrounding them are similar to security efforts you’d make for any business or home. Try some of these top recommendations for dumpster security.

Access Control

Invest in solid locks or gravity bars for your dumpsters. And make sure your employees lock the containers every night. It should be on your checklist for closing shift procedures.
Create a gated, locked area around your bin for an extra layer of defense. Don’t clutter this with a lot of foliage, which can provide cover for intruders. And don’t become lax or lazy about leaving this area unlocked, even during business hours. It’s important to lock up this area anytime you’re not immediately using the dumpster.

If possible, coordinate pickups with your vendor on a frequency that deters activity and with a consistency that ensures the area is unlocked for as short a time as possible.

Enhance Lighting

Install sufficient lighting to deter activity around or in the dumpster. This requires installing outdoor lighting above and around the dumpsters at heights that can’t be interfered with, damaged or blocked easily from the ground. Motion-detector lights are an excellent choice.

Post Signs

Unambiguous, hard-to-miss signage is a minor deterrent, but every little bit of dumpster security helps. Plus, it might help your legal case, if it comes to that.

Post warning signs that indicate your dumpster is for private use, that the area is under, surveillance, and that violators will be prosecuted. Some businesses go so far as to outline penalties.

Having posted warning signs is of particular importance when it comes to dumpster divers. While dumpster diving on public property is legal in all 50 U.S. states, it is illegal in certain scenarios. For example, say someone ignores warning signs, trespasses on private property, and proceeds to pick a gate lock or dumpster lock. That would be illegal.

Posting signage is important if issues of liability were to come into play, too. Believe it or not, if a dumpster diver were injured on something sharp or exposed to chemicals, you could find yourself in legal hot water. But posting a sign provides you with some protection.

Minimize What You Dump

Don’t place documents containing sensitive information in your bin whole. Instead, use a NAID AAA-certified facility or service to destroy documents containing identifying information. This is a case of “better safe than sorry” in a world of identity theft.

And if you’re discarding electronic storage or computers, be sure to destroy the data these things contain on them. Even better, don’t even place them in a dumpster. Instead, reach out to a nonprofit organization or another party who might appreciate giving an electronic item a second life even though you’re done with it. And if it’s too far gone? There are many recycling facilities and outlets that will recover as much as possible out of an existing electronic device before discarding what can’t be recycled.

Understand Your Dumpster Divers

Get to know why people would want to dive into your dumpster and remove the temptation, if possible. For example, if you’re a food outfit, you may attract people who are hungry and seeking food. Instead of tossing food, consider donating it to a local pantry or homeless shelter to remove that temptation from your dumpster.

Fire Safety

Fire safety starts with fire prevention. Educate employees and tenants (if applicable) on proper waste disposal practices. Dumpsters should not be a dumping ground for particularly flammable items such as oily rags or chemicals, which require specific protocols. Keep the dumpster area free of wind-swept leaves and litter. Left unchecked, these items can easily become fuel. Enforce a strict no-smoking policy near the dumpster. Designate an outdoor area for employee smoke breaks far from the dumpster. Check and maintain any electrical outlets near the dumpster to prevent sparks.

Next, ensure that you can quickly put out any fires that start. Install fire extinguishers near the dumpster area in easily accessible areas. Provide employees with sufficient training on their use. And inspect the equipment regularly, replacing expired units. If your setup allows for it, arrange for automatic sprinklers near the dumpsters in the event of a fire.

Increase Visibility

Security can expand to the community level. Create an unofficial “neighborhood watch” of your dumpster by asking nearby business owners to keep an eye out for anything unsavory. Offer to do the same for them. Build a relationship with local law enforcement and report any suspicious activities to them.

Have staff regularly inspect the dumpster and report issues. Make this an element of your formal training with employees. Regular inspections of the dumpster area ensure that any damage to fences, locks, or lighting is promptly addressed.

Business security camera systems optimize security and visibility like nothing else can. Invest in a Deep Sentinel system to canvass the area and respond to any “bad actors” lurking around the bin or actually diving in. The surveillance camera provides the wide view and high resolution necessary to identify anyone attempting to access your dumpster. Deep Sentinel’s live guards stand ready to respond to situations as they unfold to deter dumping, theft, and other activities you would like to avoid. You can install these cameras also at heights that deter tampering.

Better Dumpster Security, Better Business Security

With a multipronged effort like this, you can reduce the appeal of dumpsters—and their surrounding areas—as a destination for illegal and undesirable activities.

Dumpsters are one weak point in the physical security of any business. By shoring up this vulnerable spot, your entire business is safer. Deep Sentinel leverages security guard surveillance at strategic locations inside and outside your premises to provide comprehensive after-hours security. Entrust your business to Deep Sentinel, and you’ll never need to worry about dumpster divers or other intruders again.

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Deep Sentinel is the only security technology that delivers the experience of a personal guard on every customer’s home and business. Visit deepsentinel.com/business or call 833.983.6006.

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