What Can I Throw In The Dumpster?

What Can I Throw In The Dumpster?

Junk Removal Advice:

Yes, physically you can fit just about anything into a good-sized dumpster. That doesn’t mean that you should. In fact, there are some things that you just shouldn’t.

There is a multitude of reasons you may need to get rid of the junk and clutter in and around your home. Whether it’s home improvement or spring cleaning, there are guaranteed to be a lot of items to end up in the waste bin. Waste piles can become so large that most project workers and do-it-yourselfers resort to renting out a dumpster to hold and haul away the refuse created while working on their projects.

While this may seem like a great catch-all solution to the monster created from a growing pile of waste, not everything can be sent to the landfill in a dumpster. Most of the debris like rotted wood and drywall is perfectly fine in a dumpster. The majority of project waste even qualifies to be hauled away in these practical metal containers. However, some common items are unsafe to store in dumpsters and may even cause an explosion.

What Can’t I Throw in a Dumpster?

Logically, you are sure to be asking ‘well, what can’t I throw in the dumpster then?’ The answer varies due to regulations from state to state and company to company but no matter where you are located there are restricted items when it comes to rental dumpsters.

Unlike a standard dumpster that litter cities street to street that serves everyday purposes, rental dumpsters are not to be used for waste that can permanently damage the container such as loose adhesives or car batteries. It may seem counterintuitive for a waste dumpster rental company to have concerns about the condition of their units because of their purpose but chemicals from waste products can irreversibly damage the structure of the dumpster and render it unusable.

Among the list of items that may be restricted by the dumpster’s rental contractor are:


Glue and epoxy should be thrown away in household trash or recycling. Loose adhesives or damaged containers with adhesive can spread across other debris in the dumpster and cause it to stick together or to the dumpster’s walls. Industry-grade epoxy and glue can be incredibly difficult to remove and cause breaks and damages in the container upon removal.

Car Batteries and Lithium Batteries:

Car batteries and lithium batteries, found in laptops, have to be handled with a specific recycling procedure. It is recommended that they are taken to local recyclers, auto shops, or electronics retailers to be properly taken care of. More common household alkaline-based batteries(AA, AAA, D, C, etc.) can be safely deposited in a rental dumpster.

Mercury-Containing Products:

Fluorescent lights contain mercury. These and other products that contain mercury are prohibited from being disposed of or require a proper method of recycling. California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington all require mercury to be properly recycled.

Food Waste:

Food waste is not always prohibited from being deposited in a rental dumpster. However, many rental companies prohibit food waste deposits in roll-off dumpsters to prevent attracting rodents and leftover decomposition.


Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning units, and other freon-containing appliances must have the freon removed before proper disposal. This can only be done by a professional. These appliances can be picked up by local sanitation departments or replaced by retailers who offer old appliance pick-up with a new purchase.

Hot Water Tanks:

Hot water tanks have harmful gasses with a high risk of exploding. Due to the danger, they can not be deposited in any dumpster. It is recommended that hot water tanks are sold, scrapped, or donated.

Household Cleaners:
The empty containers of household cleaning products can be thrown in the dumpster. However, the chemical cleaners and solvents they carry should not be. Aside from volatile chemical combinations that risk causing a fire in other debris, harmful chemical gasses can be created by the improper mix of house chemical products.

Inks & Resins:

Inks and resins from pens and printers can damage equipment and stain dumpsters. It is recommended that they are disposed of at recycling centers or retailers with recycling services.

Oils, Fuels, and Propane Tanks:

Propane tanks, oils, fuels, and other flammable materials are highly combustible which makes them a serious safety hazard. It is illegal to dispose of the substances improperly in most states. These tanks can often be traded in with retailers who sell propane and propane companies. Other public services such as the fire department or hazardous material collection centers may be available to assist in safely disposing of these items if other options are not available.

Paint and Lacquers:

Paint, paint thinners, lacquers, and wood stains are generally prohibited from deposit in rental dumpsters. Though this may be a cosmetic decision, there are also concerns with the build-up of heat and pressure with half-filled closed containers of paint thinners, stains, and lacquers. Luckily, this is another category with specialized recycling programs offered by retailers and paint companies.

Railroad Ties and Telephone Poles:

Lumber materials used in railroad ties and telephone poles are heavily treated with wood preservatives. These preservatives are harmful enough that most rental companies will not accept them in their dumpsters. Instead, lumber treated with preservatives can be offered to Habitat for Humanity or anyone looking for scrap wood materials.


Landfills typically will not accept tires due to their nature to trap gases during their extremely long period of decomposition. Tires are often sought after for recycling and reuse. Auto parts stores and tire dealerships may not only take old tires but also offer compensation.

Aside from the restrictions put in place by landfills and rental companies, state regulations define a list of hazardous waste that must be put through specific waste removal and storage procedures due to health and environmental safety concerns. Most hazardous waste products have signage on their package or container to denote how to dispose of them. Here’s a list of hazardous waste types that may need to be handled professionally or with extreme care:

Flammable or Ignitable Waste:

Kerosene, matches, flares, rubbing alcohol, diesel fuel, cleaning solvents, nail polish remover, and motor oil are among the vast array of flammable and ignitable materials that must be handled in a specific way for disposal. The danger of a small spark or flame from a lit cigarette could trigger an explosion.

Corrosive Waste:

Rust remover, oven cleaner, chlorine bleach, and large lead-acid batteries are corrosive materials that are not only destructive to the container but more importantly, they are incredibly dangerous to handle for waster workers. They have a high chance to damage skin and erode metal objects. Due to the increased possibility for accidents and leaks, this can cause dangerous run-off and spillage that contaminates groundwater and nearby water sources.

Reactive Wastes:

Propane tanks, oxygen tanks, aerosol cans, ammunition, and fertilizer are unstable in normal conditions and may explode under regular pressure. The environmental conditions in landfills and during transport to the landfills exacerbate them with increased heat, outside pressure, and possible physical trauma to their structure causing the compressed gases to explode or release toxic fumes.

Toxic Waste:

Medications, antifreeze, pesticides, and mercury-containing objects like thermometers and fluorescent lightbulbs can be lethal to exposed skin or when ingested. The volatility of toxic wastes towards humans and the environment also requires that they be contained and stored properly for waste.

Biohazardous or Infectious Waste:

Bloods, needles, bodily fluids, animal waste, and animal body parts are considered biohazardous and infectious waste materials. These waste products are heavily regulated and must be stored in proper containers at all times and removed according to state-regulated health protocols.

Why It Matters

How waste is sorted and disposed of has been a long history of trial and error runs. The lessons learned have sometimes come at the highest costs, human life. Some chemical waste has even done damage to the environment that will not restore to its’ former condition for hundreds of years, if ever. While for one individual, it may feel like you are only tossing just a little bit and it’s no big deal but it is. Your waste is going to be taken and combined with the countless waste of others. It only takes one explosion from a propane tank that made its’ way into a garbage disposal unit to end a life or cause serious harm.

The lessons humanity has learned from doing the wrong thing when getting rid of unwanted materials should be used to save lives today.

What Happens if I do it Anyway?

If environmental safety, your health, and the health of others are not enough to dissuade you from disposing of hazardous and restricted materials, then the repercussions may be. Improperly disposing of dangerous materials is considered Illegal Dumping. Illegal dumping is a crime. It can either be a misdemeanor or a felony but even as a misdemeanor it can result in a $7500 fine and/or up-to twelve months incarcerated.

Items placed on a restricted item list by a dumpster rental company may not all be hazardous or toxic waste. These restrictions are often placed in the best interest of the dumpster’s owner. Breaking the company’s rules may place you liable for damages and repairs under contract or prevent future dumpster and equipment rentals from the same company.

With such serious consequences, it’s better to do your best to follow proper guidelines and procedures for hazardous waste. It is safer and cheaper to do things the right way.

What Do I Do With Restricted Items and Hazardous Waste?

In the previous list of types of restricted items and hazardous waste, a few ideas for alternative disposal have been presented. Most of these materials have developed an industry around specialized waste disposal and recycling.

Electronic components like the lithium batteries in laptops can be taken to electronics retailers to be recycled along with batteries and small electronics as well as televisions. Car batteries and tires can be taken to auto shops or tire dealerships. Home appliances can be scheduled for pick-up by retailers.

If you find yourself questioning whether an item needs to be handled properly or who to get in contact with to dispose of waste with special needs, check with your local sanitation department to get answers. They will not only be able to assist you in identifying what needs to be handled properly but may be able to get you in contact with the specialists you need.

Why Can’t I Do It Myself?

In most cases, no one will tell you that you can’t do it yourself. However, you may be warned extensively about the difficulty of removing, sorting, and properly delivering normal waste and hazardous waste to their respective homes. Among the availability of public access to waste management facilities, there are numerous amount of hurdles that contractors and waste removal experts have already created consistent pathways to get around.

In other cases, the reality is that the safety and environmental concerns of certain materials are without a doubt outside the average person’s scope of ability to handle. These materials should be handled by professionals in order to comply with law-enforced regulations and to ensure personal safety and health.

Disregarding the guidelines put in place by a rental company that has contracted the use of a dumpster for your project can also damage your relationship with them and cause future rental to from them to cease or incur charges for damage to their property. However, in the cases of regulated waste being carelessly placed in a dumpster, fines and even incarceration for up to twelve months may be imposed by courts on top of being held liable for damages and the health risks to the rental company and waste disposal workers. Illegal dumping is considered either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the dumping.

Take the concerns seriously and avoid any negative impact for yourself and others by being mindful of the waste product that you are disposing of.

When Do I Hire a Professional?

Any hazardous materials on-site should be disposed of by professionals. Any time hazardous chemicals may have leaked, professionals should be called to handle the clean-up and disposal. If you have concerns handling or touching a substance, a professional should be called to handle the situation. In short, if you aren’t sure that what you are throwing away is a normal waste product that you would throw in your kitchen waste bin, call a professional.

Professionals have the expertise, personal protection equipment, and storage tools to handle waste problems safely and securely.

With your newfound knowledge on the best trash practice on what can’t go in a dumpster, you should feel confident to continue the clean-up of your work or do-it-yourself project.

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