What Can You Put in an Apartment Dumpster?

What you put in a dumpster may seem obvious: it’s garbage, right? However, there are all kinds of rules and regulations as to what you can and can’t put in an apartment dumpster. Tossing items like car batteries and tires in an apartment dumpster is illegal and could even get you fined.

What can you put in an apartment dumpster? For the most part, you can throw most debris, junk, or nonhazardous waste in an apartment dumpster. The following is a list of some of the permitted items:

  • General trash – This includes food scraps, food-soiled items (napkins, pizza boxes, take-out containers), pet waste, diapers, disposable gloves, plastic wrap, film, and bags, and carton packaging.
  • Appliances – You can toss out washers, dryers, A/C units, but they have to be emptied of all hazardous components first.
  • Household junk – You can put most household junk in an apartment dumpster – toys, old trinkets, clothing, and more. 
  •  Electronics – In some apartment buildings, it is permissible to put electronics such as TVs, computers, and printers in the dumpster in small quantities.
  • Yard waste – In most cases, branches, trees, brush, grasses, and other green waste are permitted in apartment dumpsters.
  • Construction debris – Almost all construction waste and home improvement debris (drywall, wall tiles, flooring, and the like) can be thrown in an apartment dumpster.

A wide range of items are permissible to put in an apartment dumpster, but there are just as many (if not more) things that you should never toss in a dumpster due to local regulations or safety hazards. Read on to learn more about the items that can go in a dumpster in most apartment buildings.

Materials you can put in an apartment dumpster

You can dispose of almost any nonhazardous junk or waste in an apartment dumpster. That includes:

1. General trash

General trash like food scraps, diapers, pet waste, plastic utensils, broken glass and dishes, aseptic containers, polystyrene foam and packaging, plastic straws, gable-top cartons (such as milk cartons), disposable gloves, and plastic wrap and bags can be disposed of in an apartment dumpster. 

Trash must be in the dumpster with the lid closed for pickup. That means that if your trash can’t fit in without the dumpster propping up the lid or overflowing, you might have to find other ways to dispose of it. This also helps to keep the mess in the dumpster area to a minimum and discourages scavenging animals.

2. Household junk

You can dispose of most household junk items in an apartment dumpster, including old knick knacks, toys, clothing, curtains, carpeting, cardboard, old documents, and similar non-organic trash.

3. Renovation and home improvement debris

Debris from construction, demolition, and home improvement projects can be tossed in an apartment dumpster. This can include broken bathroom fixtures, flooring, drywall, subfloor materials, wall tiles, old countertops, and siding. 

4. Lumber

In most apartment buildings, you can put untreated lumber and other types of wood left over from construction projects into a dumpster, including two-by-fours and studs. For the most part, treated lumber is rarely allowed in apartment dumpster containers.

5. Wooden furniture

Wooden furniture – chairs, tables, bookcases, cabinets – are almost always permissible to put in an apartment dumpster. However, in some locations, you are not allowed to dispose of furniture that is upholstered – couches, armchairs, etc. (More on that later). Keep in mind that throwing away furniture may carry an additional fee in some localities due to disposal regulations. Where possible, consider donating furniture.

6. Brick, asphalt, and concrete

Heavier construction debris such as concrete, brick, and asphalt can be disposed of in most apartment dumpsters. However, because of their considerable weight, there are waste companies that require the usage of specific dumpsters better suited for heavy materials.

7. Shingles

Roofing shingles are another type of heavy debris that may need to go in a specific dumpster. Consider asking your dumpster provider about any additional fees for roofing disposal (including underlayment, plywood, tiles, and any other construction waste) to get quotes. 

Materials you can sometimes dispose of in an apartment dumpster

Certain items, such as upholstered furniture, electronics, appliances, and mattresses can be thrown in a dumpster in some areas. This is because waste regulations can vary from area to area, state to state, and even from city to city. Here are some of the items you might want to check if they’re acceptable to put in an apartment dumpster in your area:

1. Yard waste

In most cases, yard waste can go in an apartment dumpster. However, your local regulations may limit the amount of green yard waste that can be sent to a landfill. In some areas, you can dispose of shrubs, tree limbs, brush, and other green waste in a yard waste dumpster, while other areas may be limited to a few bags of leaves and grass. Some areas may even allow the disposal of tree stumps in dumpsters, but you always want to call and check beforehand. 

2. Electronics

In some areas, it is permissible to dispose of electronics in an apartment dumpster. This may include computers, laptops, TVs, printers, and other personal electronics in small quantities. However, if you’re getting rid of a large number of electronics, you’ll likely need to have them recycled as e-waste. 25 states have electronics recycling laws, including California, New York, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Minnesota, Utah, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, to mention a few. 

You can either sustainably dispose of your unwanted electronics at your local e-waste recycling center, or opt to consult one of the numerous office supply and electronic brands that provide mail-in and in-store options for recycling old electronics. Brands and stores that may be willing to accept your recycled electronics include Amazon, Best Buy, Apple, Dell, Samsung, Sony, LG, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Epson, Sprint, and Xerox. 

3. Appliances

Appliances like AC units, washers, dryers, microwaves, and stoves can be put in an apartment dumpster unless otherwise stated. Refrigerators typically cannot be disposed of in a dumpster unless they have been completely drained of hazardous fluids and components. Refrigerators themselves are not toxic, but freon, the refrigerant they contain, is, and the penalty of releasing this hazardous fluid to the environment can be up to $25,000. 

If you have an appliance that contains freon, consider contacting a HVAC or appliance repair specialist to drain the refrigerant before you toss it out.

You’ll also want to avoid throwing water heaters in apartment dumpsters, as they have been known to collect gases and explode upon reaching the landfill.

An alternative when it comes to disposing of appliances is recycling. Some local utilities sponsor bounty programs from time to time. These programs are incentives for recycling your appliances which allow you to turn in your old or broken appliances in exchange for “bounty”.

4. Upholstered furniture

Upholstered furniture such as ottomans, couches, lounge chairs, and recliners can be put in the dumpster in some apartment buildings, but not all. If you have upholstered items that you want to get rid of but a dumpster isn’t an option, consider the following alternatives:

  • Leave it at the curb – If you have only a few smaller pieces of upholstered furniture, drag it out to your curb. However, before you do this, make sure you touch base with your landlord.
  • Rent a roll-off dumpster – A quick and affordable way to get rid of upholstered furniture and other junk in your home is to rent a roll-off dumpster.
  • Donate it – You can donate your upholstery furniture if it can be used as-is (without needing repairs) and the upholstery doesn’t have any major rips, stains, and odors.

5. Dirt

Many areas allow dirt to be disposed of in apartment dumpsters, but others have different regulations when it comes to dirt disposal. This is often the case with contaminated soilLithium-ion or dirt that has been polluted with chemicals and toxic waste. Consider calling your local waste management office to find out how to properly dispose of dirt in your area – if you’re lucky, your community may offer free dirt hauling.

6. Aerosol cans

You can put empty aerosol cans in your apartment dumpster. However, partially full or full cans have the potential to explode, so always empty them.

7. Event waste

If you have food waste left over from a backyard cookout or neighborhood party, you may wonder what’s the most appropriate way to get rid of it. In most areas, you can put small quantities of food waste in a dumpster without penalty. However, in some areas, food waste is prohibited entirely, so make sure you check your local waste disposal regulations beforehand.

8. Stumps and large yard debris

You can dispose of stumps and large yard debris in some apartment buildings, but not all. There may be particular regulations about the size and type of waste – for instance, some areas may charge an additional fee per tree stump.

9. Mattresses and box springs

Unless they’re specifically allowed in your area, box springs and mattresses are not allowed to be thrown in apartment dumpsters. This is because mattresses are composed largely of cotton, wood, and steel – all these are materials that can be recycled and go to waste when disposed of in landfills.

If you have a mattress that you want to get rid of, consider going online and learning how to take it apart and strip all the recyclable materials away from the mattress waste.

Materials you can never put in an apartment dumpster

It’s important to be aware of what you can’t put in your apartment dumpster. Some of these items can be incredibly hazardous, while others can net you a pesky improper waste disposal fee from your local government.

1. Paint cans and lacquers

Paint, paint thinner, wood stain, and lacquer are not allowed in dumpsters because many of them contain mercury or lead, especially if they were manufactured before the 90s.  Empty paint cans, however, can be put in dumpsters. An alternative is to recycle empty, dried paint can along with other metals in your regular recycling bin. 

2. Car batteries

Never put car batteries in your apartment dumpster as they can leak chemicals that are hazardous to the environment. You can take old car batteries to your local auto shop for recycling. Other types of batteries that should never be put in a dumpster include:

  • Lithium ion batteries
  • Lead-acid batteries
  • Computer batteries
  • Silver oxide batteries
  • Rechargeable batteries

General-purpose alkaline batteries (such as AA, AAA, C, D, button cell, and 9 Volt) are allowed in a dumpster. 

3. Adhesives

Adhesive materials such as epoxy and glue are not allowed to go in an apartment dumpster as they can bind other materials to the dumpster walls. Instead, throw these items out with your recycling or your regular household trash.

4. Tires

It’s not permissible to throw tires in dumpsters. This is because the hollow space at the center of a tire could potentially trap methane gases when it gets buried by other waste in the landfill. The methane will cause the tire to “float” to the surface of the landfill, consequently pushing aside other waste and potentially damaging the landfill structures and equipment and structures. The best solution when it comes to getting rid of a tire involves bringing it to an auto parts store so that it can be turned into rubber mulch.

5. Hot water tanks

You can’t put a hot water tank into your apartment dumpster, because the void space inside the tank can collect harmful gases inside landfills and may eventually explode. If you have a hot water tank that you need taken off your hands, contact the hot water company to see if the person tasked with delivering the new unit can pick up your old one when they come up. 

6. Hazardous waste

Hazardous materials like pesticides, asbestos, contaminated soils or absorbents, medical waste, motor oil, and other automotive fluids must be disposed of by professional hazardous waste collectors. Always follow the proper procedures of disposal and find a hazardous waste collection center in your local area near you to handle the disposal accordingly.

Final thoughts

Although this guide gives you a comprehensive list of items, each locality (and apartment building) has its own rules and regulations and it’s always a good idea to check with local authorities as well as your landlord/property manager to find out what you can and can’t put in an apartment dumpster. Doing your research will help you know for sure that your waste is being disposed of effectively, responsibly, and safely.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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