A married man has described the moment his wedding ring became lost in a 10ft pile of rubbish at the tip in North Shields - and how his panic turned to joy when staff recovered it.
James Ross, 38, was dropping off cardboard at the Household Waste Recycling Centre on Valentine’s Day morning when his wedding band flew off his finger and disappeared into a household waste container.
He reported the loss to a site operative and then looked on anxiously as four staff members conducted a fingertip search for the ring. But his despair turned to joy when, against all the odds, one of the team surfaced 20 minutes later holding the ring aloft and a Valentine’s Day nightmare was averted.
The site is operated by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK on behalf of North Tyneside Council.
James and his with Lara, 40, who live in Cullercoats with their two daughters, aged nine and five, have now praised the staff for their heroics.
James said: “It was a container where you push the rubbish through an opening. It was very cold. My hands were cold and, as I was shaking out the box, suddenly the ring was just gone. I don’t know if it caught the edge of the box, but my heart just sank.
“I went over and there was a lady checking cars and I told her what had happened. She was lovely and calm, she told me not to worry and said she’d get someone to come and have a look.
“They sent four lads round to search for it and they must have been going at it for 20 minutes. I was losing hope and dreaded the thought of going home to my wife on Valentine’s Day and telling her my ring was lost.
“It wasn’t what it cost – it was laser engraved with my wife’s handwriting and the date we got married in 2009. It was irreplaceable.
“I was beside myself. I had no expectations and thought the chances of getting it back were slim. The team had to pull out a huge pile of rubbish and shove it all behind them and check it over and over again.
“Suddenly, there it was. The ring was caked in rubbish and grime, but it was amazing to have it back. The staff were life savers. They’ve gone way beyond the call of duty, being as nice and polite as they can be.
“My wife was over the moon, she thought I was making up an elaborate story. We can’t thank them enough.”
The team were close to giving up on the search when Plant Operator, Jordan Cooper, 22, spotted the ring in a puddle of mud under a 10ft pile of waste.
He said: “When we realised what had happened, we were all happy to help in the search, especially as it was Valentine’s Day. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack as there was a huge mound of waste to search through and we had the added difficulty of ensuring we kept our distance and followed the COVID guidelines. We were just about to give up when I spotted it, I was over the moon!”
Site supervisor, Phil Cooper, was one of the four who went in to search for the ring alongside Adam McGregor and Brian Hellens.
He said: “The lads were on their break when they shouted for us on the radio and asked us to shut down the machinery so we could enter the container and take a look.
“We literally moved everything that was there, but we just couldn’t find it at all. Luckily, Jordan looked to the right hand side and just spotted it. It was lying in a puddle of mud and was all scruffy. It looked like a washer at first glance but when you looked closely, it was all engraved inside and was obviously something very special.
“The guy was ecstatic when we handed back his ring. If it had fallen into a bag, it would have been gone. He was very fortunate that morning.”
North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn CBE, said: “I am so pleased that the staff were able to reunite James with his wedding ring - and on Valentine’s Day too.
“Our staff and partners always go the extra mile but the significance of the day and the obvious distress this must have caused has spurred them on to keep going until the wedding ring was found. They’re a caring bunch and obviously with a romantic streak as well. I’m very proud of them.”