Can I recover a valuable item from recyclables or trash?

Return to Recycling and Trash Service for single-family homes

Oops! You just discovered that a valuable item unintentionally went into your recyclables or trash... and the collection truck has already picked it up.

Is it possible to find valuable items picked up as recyclables or trash?

Sometimes. One critical element is our ability to identify the collection truck before it dumps its load at our facilities.

  • If your loss occurred on the day you call us, you might find your items.
  • If your loss occurred prior to that, we cannot recover your items.

What steps should I take?

Contact us immediately

Time is critical! Our window of opportunity for being able to help you is typically very short.

Help us identify the collection truck

  • If your collection is provided by Montgomery County, contact the Montgomery County's Customer Service Center at 311 (out-of-County: 240-777-0311).
    • Our staff will determine which company and truck serviced your home, and will contact our Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station for you.

  • If your collection is not provided by Montgomery County, please call the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station at 240‑777‑6560 with this information:
    • the name of your collection company
      • If the company does not take its loads to our Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station, we will not be able to assist you further.
    • the number of the truck which serviced your address (contact the collection company for this information)
    • what time the the truck is scheduled to come to the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station to unload (contact the collection company for this information)

Other helpful information is:

  • what time the valuable item was picked up by the truck
  • whether the pickup was at the beginning, middle, or end of the route
    • this helps us know what section of the truck load to target in searching for your item

Once we know the collection company and truck, we will contact our Scale House staff to determine whether the truck has already dumped its load.

  • If the truck has not unloaded, we will watch for it to arrive. Once the truck arrives, we will ask the driver to dump in a separate location on our tipping floor. We will contact you right away.
  • If the truck has already unloaded, it is too late to locate your item.

Be safe

Searching through recyclables or trash can be dangerous. Risks include slipping, falling, and getting cut on sharp objects.  You must assess the importance of recovering your lost item relative to these risks.

You must wear long pants, and sturdy footwear such as leather boots.

We will provide a hard hat, glasses, gloves, and a vest.

Look through the unloaded material to find your item

If we succeed in having the truck's load dumped separately, we will ask you to be at the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station as soon as this occurs. You will then be able to look through the load to find your item -- you will know best what bag, box, or item you are seeking.

We will assist the you with search through the material at our discretion, if staff are available.

Load size and working conditions

A 10-ton pile of trash is approximately 30 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 8 feet high. It is usually very smelly and wet, and consists mostly of black and white identical trash bags.

There is much heavy truck traffic in and out of the building, where it is very loud, dusty, and dirty, with strong odors.

Time available to work

We must clear out all trash that comes into the Transfer Station before our day is over. Therefore, we can give you only a limited time -- 30 minutes -- for your search. If we find the search too dangerous at any time, we may terminate it.