08.10.2019 | Recycling tips

Unusual items found in our recycling bins.


We have been collecting waste from businesses in the North West for over a decade now, but every now and then, in among the every day objects which are sent away to be recycled, we come across some items which leave us in a state of bemusement.

Here, we run through a list of our favourite oddities which we’ve stumbled across on our collection rounds over the years.

‘Used’ pants

Many people probably don’t realise that when their rubbish is sent to be recycled, it is initially sifted and sorted by humans when it reaches our Material Recovery Facilities in Swinton and Preston.

It’s a tough, specialist job, and while we’re used to handling all kinds of detritus, some ‘personal’ objects are always a little bit gross, especially when they’ve been thrown out after what was clearly a messy night in more ways than one.

Most councils in the UK have specialists clothes recycling facilities, while Oxfam accepts donations of bras for social enterprises in Africa, so there really is no need to put your smalls into the main bin.

weird items in recycling bins


While stealing or misusing passports is clearly illegal, throwing them away is within the law. That said it really isn’t recommended that you do so, particularly if it’s still in date, as criminal use of lost or stolen passports is of huge concern to authorities.

More than 160,000 UK passports were lost overseas between 2008 and 2013, and despite the wealth of biometric data and tamper-proof photographs on modern documents, in the wrong hands they can be used in cases of identity fraud, or worse, used to commit crimes where you become a suspect.

If you do want to dispose of your old passport, the advice is to destroy it rather than putting in the bin, although expired ones can still be useful when applying for visas to certain countries.

A concrete tortoise

Some items stop you in your tracks, and some make you wonder how some people can be so heartless.

This happened to us when we found a tortoise tossed into one of our recycling bins. There was no way of knowing exactly where it had come from, but our worker who unearthed it was very upset – until we realised that the tortoise wasn’t dead, but was in fact made of concrete.

Needless to say, putting dead pets in the recycling isn’t recommended, and while councils have removal services for animals found in public spaces, it’s usually your responsibility to bury or dispose of them if they’re found on your property.

weird items in recycling bins

False teeth

With a lifespan of around 5-10 years, it shouldn’t be too much of a shock when a set of dentures ends up at our recycling centre, but there is always something odd about false teeth being seen out of their usual context.

As well as being worn down like natural teeth, dentures need changing because the shape of people’s gums changes over time, but as strange as it may seen, even these most bespoke of items can be recycled and reused.

Although they can’t salvage everything from a partial set, the non-profit Japan Dentures Recycling Association melts them down to retrieve any metals inside, with all proceeds going to Unicef. Disinfected full sets of false teeth can also be donated for reuse in parts of the world with limited access to dentistry.

weird items in recycling bins

Garden furniture and false legs

Getting rid of a chair is one thing, throwing away a table another, but disposing of a fully functioning set of quality garden furniture seems a little drastic.

We don’t know the circumstances behind this complete set of patio paraphernalia ending up in the recycling, but whether it was some impending downsizing, the arrival of higher end kit, or even just a fit of pique, we can confirm that it found its way to a new home.

It’s a shame they didn’t include a gazebo as well, though.

False legs

We certainly had a surprise when a prosthetic leg popped up in our recycling one day!

However, as with the concrete tortoise, not everything was as it first seemed, as this was actually a limb which came from a shop mannequin.

This got us wondering if mannequins can actually be recycled? Happily, as they’re usually made from plastic or fibreglass, they are practically infinitely recyclable, although they’re unlikely to bio-degrade any time this millennium if they’re sent to landfill.

If you’re lucky enough to have a much older vintage dummy from before the 1930s, they are generally made of wax, although we expect the chances you’d want to melt it down and turn it into decorative candles are fairly slim.

weird items in recycling bins

Lost keys

Ever wonder where you put that set of keys?

We’ve probably got them.

We always try to reunite owners with their sets of keys if there is anything identifiable we can work with, and while we keep hold of them for a certain amount of time on the off-chance that one of our customers realises what they’ve done, they usually end up getting melted down with the rest of our scrap metal.

Assortment of wigs

The vast majority of the items which come through our recycling centres are without question, rubbish. From plastic bottles to broken pallets and piles of waste food, we divert thousands of tonnes of refuse away from landfill each year.

Wigs are tricky, though.

With most modern wigs being made from synthetic hair which can’t currently be recycled, we’d recommend sending them to one of the UK’s fantastic wig recycling schemes, which cleans and reconditions them into usable hair pieces for people with cancer or alopecia.

Moose head

It’s not every day that a moose head is put into one of our recycling bins, but this was clearly no ordinary day at Fresh Start.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a grizzly item which was due for processing in our food waste stream. Instead, it was a mounted taxidermy specimen which had managed to outstay its welcome in a storage room somewhere.

Darth Vadar

The market for Star Wars memorabilia is huge, which is why it was all the more surprising to find a life size effigy of the fabled Sith Lord, Darth Vader, in our cardboard recycling section.

With figures of the erstwhile Anakin Skywalker fetching up to £70 online, it would’ve been tempting to open him up to offers, even if if wouldn’t have eclipsed the most expensive Star Wars collectible of all time: George Lucas’s Episode IV Panavision Camera, which sold for $625,000 in 2011.

Unfortunately, cardboard isn’t quite as tough a nut to crack as the Galactic Empire, and the cut out was too badly damaged by whoever threw it out to even have its own corner in our office.

Fresh Start Waste truck, forest carbon

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