Bozeman woman loses wallet, sanitation crews find it at landfill

Posted at 9:16 AM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 11:16:19-04

BOZEMAN- Earlier this week, a Bozeman woman did something we all have done at some point: threw something away that wasn’t supposed to be.

She thought it might be gone forever — but not this time.

Sterling, who lives in Bozeman, went out to eat on Tuesday at Famous Dave’s.

After she left, she eventually noticed that her wallet was missing.

Upon retracing her steps, she figured it out: she accidentally threw it away.

Some quick thinking and a major stroke of luck changed how this story normally ends.

“It was in this area and the waste would be put into this hill here,” says Jim Simon, Gallatin Solid Waste District manager. “It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

When something goes in the trash, it almost always ends up in a place like the Logan Landfill.

“A customer of [Republic Services] had lost a wallet in the trash and it was on one of their trucks and they were headed to the landfill,” Simon says.

Once it’s in the heap, there’s no turning back.

“The driver of the waste truck knew generally where the wallet was in the truck,” Simon says.

After working at the Logan Landfill for 15 years, Simon says he’s used to people losing things here.

But not like this.

“They had been looking for a good hour of time and it was getting to the point where it was time to say it was gone,” says Simon. “We can’t find it.”

After digging through around eight tons of garbage, let’s face it: you’d have called off the search, too.

“That’s a lot of garbage,” Simon says.

But Jim and his crew didn’t call it.

Instead, at the last second…

“One of the guys up there that was looking found a Famous Dave’s bag and there was the wallet inside and he’s like, ‘Is this it?’ and I’m like ‘No way,’” Simon says.

There, in the bag Sterling put it in, was the wallet.

“It’s very lucky. It’s very rare,” Simon says. “In the 15 years that I’ve been here, this is only the second time we’ve actually found something in the trash.”

If it had been another hour, it would have been among an average of eight tons from that truck, mixed in with the rest of the landfill.

As for Simon’s crews, they are still pinching themselves.

“None of us could believe it and, for a while afterwards, we’re all still kinda like wow,” Simon says.

This time, Simon says they got lucky.

While his crews will always help when they can, don’t put your chips on it.

“A lot of times, we won’t even make an attempt, especially if it has been buried and already handled by the equipment and covered and disposed of with other trash,” Simon says. “We don’t have the time or the resources and as you can see how busy this facility is, it’s very difficult. Yeah, lucky, I guess.”

MTN has been talking with Sterling over the last few days.

While she couldn’t go on camera with us today, she did tell us that she has claimed her wallet and she is overjoyed that they could find it.

-Cody Boyer reporting for MTN