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Issue Date:- 19 May 2008

The strange things that people try to recycle

WHERE would you find kittens, a bomb, credit cards, bundles of cash, a wedding dress and a dynamo from a World War II Wellington bomber?  Amazingly these are all items left by people at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) in the north of England operated by leading recycling and waste management company SITA UK in recent years.  Shotgun cartridges, a violin, silver knives and forks, a purple piano, clogs and a host of unpleasant items like nappies and dead animals have also been found among materials such as paper, glass, cans and plastic intended for recycling.

SITA UK’s staff field scores of calls each year from people who have accidentally included wedding rings, mobile phones, passports and cash in recycling boxes and skips, and hope to get them back.  Phil Holland, Regional General Manager in the North West says that dealing with the unusual and sometimes ridiculous is just part of the job for his operations staff.  

“There’s nothing as queer as folk when it comes to strange things happening with their recycling” said Phil. “We have seen it all and nowadays it would take something really amazing to surprise us.  Naturally we are keen for people to recycle anything that they think can be reused, but sometimes they get carried away by their enthusiasm or carelessness.”

Among the more bizarre incidents reported by staff at the company’s HWRCs are:

· Most of us know exactly what sort of green materials can be put in the green waste skip for composting, but one person wanted to include a green carpet, another threw green patio furniture in and one thought an artificial Christmas tree was suitable.

· When it comes to strange items, nothing can match the collection of whips, handcuffs, chains, studded belts and underwear left at one northern site.

· Alive and dead animals are regularly included in with other materials for recycling. A kitten in a cardboard box and rabbit in a kerbside blue box, are just 2 examples recorded. The rabbit died fairly soon after, but the kitten was adopted by the HWRC’s operations manager.

· Shells, bullets and bombs can cause mayhem when discovered in among peoples’ other recycled material. A live hand grenade was handed in causing the facility to be closed whilst the police and army bomb disposal team. In another place, staff called for help when a very menacing looking mortar shell was found; but it was an extremely realistic paper weight!

► One attendant watched a man drive in pulling a dilapidated trailer for disposal…and then cheekily attempt to drive off with someone else’s.

► And reuse can sometimes be the order of the day. One woman brought in a very old television, placed it with the other redundant TVs and loaded a better one into the boot of her car.

► Size is no barrier – a large caravan was left outside one site. Unfortunately it was too old and dangerous to be recycled and reused, so it had to be scrapped.

► A man who had accidentally thrown away a tool kit he had rented from a hire company and a woman who had thrown out her wedding dress have been among frantic callers to the company.

► And recycling can be an expensive business for some people. One man returned to a site frantically looking for an old suitcase he had thrown away. He hadn’t properly searched the side pockets and his wife had been keeping her savings, totalling over £1,500, in them. Sadly he never found the money.

Phil Holland added:- “We get calls from people who realise that they have put things in with their recycling that they didn’t mean to. Mainly it’s money or other valuables that have been stored in strange places. People keep cash in envelopes tucked inside other items, then someone puts it out to be recycled. Once it’s in the system we are very rarely able to retrieve it."

SITA UK’s HWRCs across the North West handle a wide range of recyclable materials including glass, paper, plastic, metals, electrical equipment, green waste, batteries, cardboard, wood, clothes, tyres and rubble, as well as substantial amounts of waste that can’t be reused or recycled.


NORTH West companies spent an all time high of £5.6 billion on training last year, up 17% from 2005 according to findings from the National Employer Skills Survey 2007 (NESS07), released by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). Further, the North West is leading the way when it comes to investing in workforce skills, with only London and the South East spending more on training.  Last year North West companies spent £1,950 per employee on training, 11% more than the national average.

NESS07, which spoke to over 79,000 employers and provides the most comprehensive analysis of skills in England, reveals a nation more committed to training than ever before. It is clear that there is awareness of the benefits of a better skilled society, especially in the face of rising competition from international countries, as employers are committing more money and time towards training.

The research also shows a rise in take-up of the Government’s flagship service, Train to Gain. Train to Gain has already helped more than 10,300 employers and 60,500 employees in the North West. Launched nationally in August 2006, Train to Gain is a skills advice and support service that gives employers access to the right training to help their business succeed. Evaluation of the service, surveying almost 4,000 employers nationwide involved with Train to Gain, has found that 80% of employers and 77% of employees have been satisfied with the advice and training received. Furthermore, 77% of employers questioned would be likely or very likely to use the service again and 80% would recommend the service to a colleague outside of their organisation.

The evaluation research also highlights the clear benefits of the training received through Train to Gain. 74% of employers using the service reported an improvement in their employees’ job-related skills while 80% of learners who had received a qualification through Train to Gain reported that they had gained skills to help them do a better job in the future.

Secretary of State, Rt Hon John Denham (MP) commented:- “The need to improve the nation's skills is a key priority for the Government as we face increasing competition from across the globe. It is vital for everyone - businesses, employees and Government - to work together to ensure we have the skills we need to succeed. It is very encouraging to see that 77,000 more companies trained their staff last year and I urge all businesses, regardless of size or sector, to follow their lead and invest in training.”

John Korzeniewski, Regional Director, LSC North West said:- “These findings are extremely encouraging and I am delighted that the North West’s businesses are ahead of the field when it comes to investing in their staff. Employers are clearly seeing that training is helping to shape the future of their businesses and is the solution to their skills needs. The challenge now is to encourage more employers to invest in their staff in this way, so that we can close the skills gap further.

Train to Gain has been particularly well received in the region with over 10,000 employers now on board. The service provides employers with a wide range of skills support from advice on how to make the Skills Pledge through to taking on an apprentice. Through Train to Gain, businesses can receive the help they need so they can reap the full benefits of their investment in training their workforce.”

For more information on Train to Gain call 0800 015 55 45 or visit

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