How sanitation workers rescued $10,000 worth of thrown-out Christmas jewelry

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Some California sanitation workers are being heralded as heroes, after recovering a bag full of jewelry worth $10,000 that was mistakenly thrown away.

The trouble started on the morning of Nov. 27, in the shipping department of jewelry maker Holly Yashi in Northern California. An employee, Jim Gridley, saw a large black contractor bag in a corner of the shipping department. Mistaking it for trash, he threw it in the company’s dumpster.

Only later did he realize the bag was full of merchandise meant to be shipped out on Christmas order; the shipping staff had run out of mailbags, and so had used the sturdy contractor bag instead. But it wasn’t only Gridley who had made a mistake. The bag, which was originally supposed to have shipped out, was left behind after being mistaken for garbage.

“We kinda went into panic mode,” operations manager Bob Pabst told the Mad River Union newspaper. The company immediately called the Humboldt Waste Management Authority, and the hunt for the bag was on.

“We have a pretty good idea where material would be in the compactor,” said HWMA Executive Director Jill Gillespie Duffy. “Then it’s a matter of wading into that muck — everything that people throw away.”

Thankfully, the bag hadn’t yet reached its destination, a landfill, and the HWMA was able to figure out which truck it was on. Once the truck reached a transfer station, its contents were dumped, and sanitation workers began sifting through it.

Miraculously, it only took five minutes for workers to identify the Holly Yashi bag. “They did a fantastic job,” Pabst said. “Their turnaround was just phenomenal. It was an hour and a half from the time we made the call to when they had it in their hand.”

This was an enormous relief to the store staff, as all its jewelry is made by hand. If the bag hadn’t been recovered, they would have had to replace every order in time for the holidays.

HWMA workers are no strangers to hunting down mistakenly discarded items. Duffy can recall looking for keys to a brand-new car. “We found them,” Duffy said. “We can’t do this for all things, but with some notice, we will work really hard to try and find these things.”

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