UAE: Workers dig through 300 tonnes of trash to retrieve lost wallet

Beeah staff described the recovery as a needle in a haystack situation


Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Mon 3 Jan 2022, 3:57 PM

Last updated: Tue 4 Jan 2022, 7:20 PM

When a Filipina health worker accidentally dumped her wallet into a trash bin in Sharjah earlier this week, she assumed it might be gone forever.

Employees at the local waste management company, Bee'ah, stepped in like heroes to successfully retrieve the polythene bag that contained the tiny black wallet. It was buried under 300 tonnes of garbage.

Needle in a haystack situation

Louie Gabilagon, a senior manager at Bee'ah involved in the hour-long nauseous operation, described the recovery as a needle in a haystack situation.

Gablilagon said they swung into action immediately after a woman contacted them around 10am on December 27 to say she accidentally threw her wallet into a dumpster in Sharjah's Al Fayhaa area the previous night.


"Time was of the essence as several hours had passed. Based on the description of the locality, we located the truck that had hauled the dumpster to our transfer station in Industrial area 12. A team was then set up to rummage through 300 tonnes of trash. It was such a massive stockpile that we had to bring in a wheeled excavator to spread the garbage so that the workers could sift through it. Eventually, one of them dug out the wallet and held it up like a prized trophy.

The woman present at the scene broke down when she saw that sight. It was an emotional moment," said Gablilagon.

The wallet contained cash, bank cards, Emirates ID and the woman's professional credentials.

Humbling experience

She said the "humbling experience" has led her to view people who pick up trash with respect.

"I have no words to thank the wonderful people at Bee'ah who went out of the way to reunite me with my missing wallet. What they did is truly incredible – more so because they did it with a smile," said the woman, who didn't want to be named.

The healthcare worker said she unknowingly threw the wallet and an empty bag of chips when she was heading home from work around 10pm the previous day.

"I didn't realise my mistake until the following morning. By the time I rushed to the trash bin, it had already been emptied.

She said she was distraught and close to tears when an Indian woman passing by stopped by and heard her plight.

"She drove me to Bea'ah office and stayed back until my wallet was found."

Gabilagon, who looks after landfill operations at Bee'ah, said the healthcare worker was fortunate. "The only clue we had was that the wallet was in a 'polythene bag'. That is not easy to find in a space where 2,000 tonnes of waste arrive daily. Fortunately, we could narrow down the heap of garbage that contained the wallet. We could have never found it had it reached our processing facility in Sajja," said Gabilagon.

He said they routinely get calls on their hotline 800BEEAH from people who had accidentally thrown their valuables into a trash bin. Most calls are for passports.

"Of course, timing is key to find something in such situations," Gabligaon said.

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