Oregon man reunited with $23,000 in cash discarded in Humboldt recycling bin

It nearly ended up in the landfill. But a sharp-eyed Recology employee in Humboldt County made the discovery of a lifetime.|

Workers on the sorting line at the Recology recycling facility in Humboldt County are used to seeing some unusual things discarded by their customers.

But not like this.

On Friday, a sharp-eyed employee found a shoebox stuffed with more than $23,000 in cash that had been accidentally thrown away by its owner.

It nearly ended up in the landfill.

“We take quite a bit of material every day so the odds of finding that are not much better than a needle in a haystack,” said Linda Wise, general manager of the Samoa Resource Recovery Center operated by Recology.

The saga started Thursday, when an Ashland, Oregon man tossed a shoebox containing his life savings into the recycling bin outside his home, Wise said. He realized his mistake later that day, but the bin had already been emptied into a truck bound for California.

Horrified, the man contacted Recology, which provides garbage service to more than 1 million homes and businesses in Washington, Oregon and California, including Sonoma County.

Several times each week, truckloads of recycling material are transported from Ashland to the Recology facility in Samoa, which has the capacity to sort things faster and cleaner than other facilities, said Brian Sollom, operations manager for three Recology recycling facilities in Humboldt County.

Late Thursday night, one of those trucks arrived in Samoa carrying bags full of recyclables from Oregon.

Most of it was sorted that night, except for a few bags that were left for the morning crew, Wise said.

Workers had been told to be on the lookout for the shoebox, but Wise held little hope of finding it.

“But then the box showed up and came down the sorting line and we were all excited to see it,” she said.

A video feed from inside the recycling facility showed the money - $22,940 - somehow stayed in the box all the way from Ashland to Humboldt, Sollom said.

“It only toppled out of the box once it got onto the sorting line,” Sollom said. “We managed to recover all but $320.”

Sollom gets calls all the time from customers searching for lost treasures: a mother whose son accidentally threw something precious away, or an antique collector who mistakenly tossed an item they adored. On many occasions, the most Sollom can offer to people is an apology.

The man who lost the cash was ecstatic when Wise called to tell him the money had been found, she said. He, along with his family, are making the five-hour drive to Humboldt County on Saturday to claim it.

Wise said it was a bonding moment for her team to come together and do something nice for someone.

“Everyone who was on the sorting line was beaming this morning,” she said. “And now this gentleman will get to have a great weekend.”

You can reach Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or alexandria.bordas@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @CrossingBordas.

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