At Texas Recycling, we process tons of paper, cardboard, and scrap metal every month at our clean Public Buy Back Center in Dallas. For the most part, sorting recyclable material is a routine process with no surprises. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t countless stories of valuables being disposed of in landfills and at recycling collection facilities around the world. Here are a few interesting ones we’d like to share.
Throwing Away Money — Literally
It’s long been estimated that Americans accidentally throw away more than $60 million in coins each year. And that’s only the beginning. More than just “spare change” ends up in landfills and recycling bills.
An undisclosed amount of money found in the Asotin County Regional Landfill in Washington was still unclaimed after a landfill customer gave it to authorities. What’s amusing is that numerous residents have since contacted the local sheriff’s office to guess the correct amount. Not to be outdone, a British couple in 2019 unknowingly tossed nearly $20,000 into a waste and recycling center after clearing out the home of a deceased relative a few weeks earlier.
According to an article by the New York Times, an employee at the waste center tracked down the couple—who lived 27 miles away—by running through the dump’s CCTV footage until a man was spotted on camera leaving the box behind.
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In 2010, Mike Rogers, a worker at a Burlington, KY recycling facility, was sorting through a barrel of scrap metal that a local resident had dropped off when he saw “some green stuff that looks almost like money.” The “green stuff” was U.S. savings bonds worth $22,000. Rogers and his wife eventually found the lawful owner and returned the bonds to him—just in time for Christmas.
According to the owner, the bonds, which bore the name of his deceased mother, had been placed in the recycling barrel by mistake by the person who had bought his mother’s home following her death. Rogers told ABC News that the new owner tried to compensate Rogers, but the good Samaritan turned down the offer and later told ABC News, “It was only the right thing to do, to make sure this family received what was rightfully theirs in the first place.”
A Fortune in Cryptocurrency
In 2013, a British IT worker accidentally disposed of a computer hard drive that contained 7,500 Bitcoins with an estimated value of $9 million. James Howells had mined the cryptocurrency about four years earlier when Bitcoin mining was in its infancy, and individual coins had little value. Howells said he had inadvertently disposed of the spare hard drive as part of a larger effort to clean his home of unwanted clutter.
“After I had stopped mining,” Howells said in a CNN interview, “the laptop I had used was broken into parts and sold on eBay. However, I kept the hard drive in a drawer at home knowing it contained my Bitcoin private keys, so that if Bitcoin did become valuable one day, I would still have the coins I had mined.” After discovering his mistake, he raced to the landfill in hopes of retrieving the hard drive.
“As soon as I saw the site,” he told CNN, “I thought you’ve got no chance. The area covered is huge.” The drive was disposed of during the summer of 2013 at a municipal landfill in Newport, Wales. By November, when the CNN article was published, a spokesperson for the Newport City Council said, “an item thrown away in the summer months would now be buried under 25,000 cubic meters of waste and earth.”
In a follow-up story published by the Telegraph in 2017, Howells said he is working on a plan to dig up the hard drive and its cache of bitcoins, which at that time had a value of $80 million.
A Painting by … David Bowie?
According to CNN, a painting by David Bowie that was purchased for $5 at an Ontario, Canada landfill ultimately fetched $88,000 at an auction. Per the article, “The portrait, titled ‘DHead XLVI,’ is part of a series of approximately 47 works that Bowie created between 1995 and 1997, according to Rob Cowley, president of Cowley Abbott, which handled the auction.
Ahead of the auction, Cowley told CNN that the seller, who has not been identified, paid 5 Canadian dollars (just over $4) for the painting last summer at a donation center at a landfill in South River, which is about three hours north of Toronto.
Music to His Ears
In 2013, a San Antonio, Texas resident spotted a violin lying among a pile of trash bound for the local landfill and retrieved it for parts to repair an old violin that his wife had been given by her father. Before scavenging the discarded instrument, he decided to have it appraised by a local instrument dealer, who set its value at $1,000. Soon after, he took the violin to a taping of PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow,” where it was examined by violin aficionado Peter Shaw who identified it as a 1922 model by master violin maker Guiseppe Pedrazzini and appraised its value at $50,000.
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A Treasure in Common Scrap Metals
In addition to these extreme and unusual cases, individuals and businesses routinely dispose of billions of dollars’ worth of valuable recyclable materials every year.
A 2012 TriplePundit article estimated that 320 tons of gold and in excess of 7,500 tons of silver find their way to landfills each year through improper disposal of E-waste, including smartphones, gaming consoles, tablets, computers, and peripheral equipment. While federal, state, and local regulations have curbed the amount of E-waste landfilling in recent years, a surprisingly large amount of precious and non-precious ferrous and non-ferrous metals are still disposed of in municipal landfills throughout the U.S. each year.
While the money you make selling your scrap metal to Texas Recycling may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to James Howells’ Bitcoin-rich hard drive and the savings bonds found by Mike Rogers, it can add up when you routinely recycle truckloads of overflow scrap metals, paper, and cardboard from your business. And you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing you’re doing your part to help protect the environment and our precious natural resources.
Sell Your Paper Recycling or Scrap Metal to Texas Recycling in Dallas, Texas
Texas Recycling is dedicated to improving the environment by providing the highest-quality recycling services in the D/FW metroplex. Our creative solutions help companies embrace environmental responsibility and sustainability. Texas Recycling also offers the highest level of personalized customer service to all our clients.
The Public Buy Back Center at Texas Recycling is open 5 days per week, Monday through Friday. We are currently accepting paper, newspaper, cardboard, office paper, other types of paper, aluminum cans, and tin scrap metal. When you arrive, please follow the directions of our helpful staff for unloading your materials.
To find out more about recycling programs for your business, call us at 214-357-0262 or get started here.