5 of the weirdest things recovered by rubbish collection crews

Two wedding rings on top of a mount of sand at the beach

With increasing adoption of kerbside sorting waste collection crews often have to sort through rubbish that’s been disposed of incorrectly, and most of the time this is a straightforward job. Once in a blue moon, however, something truly unusual will turn up – which can even turn out to be one-of-a-kind.

Sound intriguing? Here are five of the weirdest things that have ever been recovered by refuse collectors. Some of the finds have been worth thousands of pounds!

1. A wedding ring

There’s nothing worse than losing something of sentimental value – and James Ross of North Shields was heartbroken when his wedding ring fell off during a visit to his local recycling centre. But site staff combed through the container and managed to find the ring!

“It was like looking for a needle in a haystack as there was a huge mound of waste to search through and we had the added difficulty of ensuring we kept our distance and followed the Covid guidelines,” plant operator, Jordan Cooper, told BBC news. “We were just about to give up when I spotted it, I was over the moon.”

 2. Winston Churchill’s top hat

Usually, items taken to refuse tips have little value. However, one member of staff found some incredibly rare memorabilia whilst on shift at his local waste disposal centre: a top hat and cigars once belonging to Winston Churchill!

The employee, David Rose, appeared on The Antiques Roadshow showcasing his find, which also included a signed photo of the former Prime Minister. He was flabbergasted to learn that the rescued items were worth more than £10,000! 

3. A vintage canoe

In 2018, a user of the social media site Reddit started a thread on the strangest things thrown away as rubbish, and the post received some eye-opening replies.

Among them was a response from someone who works for a junk removal company, and once came across a vintage canoe. It had been won in a contest in the 1960s but never used. After the owner died, his grandson cleared it out along with his other belongings. Sadly, the remover couldn’t convince him to save the canoe from the scrapheap.

4. An Italian violin

A man was walking along the road in San Antonio, Texas, in 2013 when he spotted a violin in a pile of trash. Remembering that his wife had an old violin that needed repairing, he picked it up from the kerbside in case they could use it for spare parts.

Out of curiosity, the man decided to take the violin on the Antiques Roadshow USA, where an expert identified it as having been crafted by famous Italian violin maker, Giuseppe Pedrazzini. With a bit of cleaning up and TLC, the expert said the violin would sell at auction for up to $50,000!

5. Seven gold bars

A cleaner was emptying the bin at Incheon International Airport, South Korea, when he found seven gold bars – worth over £240,000.

Originally, it was thought that the cleaner could profit from the lucrative discovery. Under South Korea’s ‘finders keepers’ law, someone who comes across a misplaced item gets 5-20% of its total value if the object remains unclaimed for six months.

However, it was later decided that he was ineligible to make a claim, as the law doesn’t apply to employees on company property.

Putting a stop to weird waste mistakes

While these examples are a bit of fun, it’s common for unwanted items to be disposed of incorrectly by UK households. If residents aren’t sure exactly what they can and can’t throw out with each collection, there’s often confusion and cross-contamination of rubbish.

To stop this happening, local authorities need to educate communities on how their waste management services are run, put well-defined workflows in place for each type of collection, and optimise the disposal process.

In the most successful regions, council waste management teams make sure households know exactly what type of rubbish is being collected each week, on what day, in what receptacle. They use a variety of channels to communicate this information, including email, an online portal, printed leaflets and even a resident mobile app.

To compliment this, collection crews are given mobile in-cab technology to report on their rounds in real-time – so they can feed back on issues surrounding incorrectly managed waste. Local authorities then need to understand whether these issues are one-off events or recurring problems, and their impact on collection times and efficiencies.

What to do next time someone loses their wedding ring

For a completely optimised end-to-end service, hundreds of councils across the UK have invested in online waste management technology.

Digitising waste management enables local authority teams to dynamically build and change workflows, improve communications between office-based staff and collection crews, and generate requests and round sheets in response to reported problems.

A digital, joined-up approach to waste management is enabling councils to reduce cross-contamination and improper disposal in their region, while minimising the impact on overall services if the wrong rubbish is put out for collection.

And with an online waste management system in place, if someone does happen to throw their wedding ring out with the rubbish, there will be a data trail showing what vehicle picked it up, on what round, and where it ended up.

It’s up to the waste management team whether they want to go searching for it!

Whitespace municipal waste management software is already being used by 100+ UK councils. Book a free demo to find out more.  


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