Rafael Varela, a sanitation worker at Maggio Sanitation Services, Inc.,...

Rafael Varela, a sanitation worker at Maggio Sanitation Services, Inc., helped Matt Freudenberg find $3,000 he accidentally threw away in the garbage. (Sept. 23, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz

Matt Freudenberg was lucky enough to retrieve the $3,000 in cash he accidentally threw in the garbage last week.

According to several sanitation officials, most people who accidentally discard their valuables aren't so lucky.

Jonathan DiVello, director of Mattituck Sanitation, said the company gets calls once or twice a month from anxious customers hoping to retrieve some valuable they accidentally put in the garbage.

"It happens all the time," he said. "A lot of times, it is in a landfill and it's out of our hands."

DiVello and other officials said people have mistakenly thrown away everything from prestigious jewelry to wads of cash. Getting the items, however, usually proves to be too difficult, officials said.

DiVello said the odds of finding an item depend on how soon customers call, and the location and size of the truck carrying the trash.

"If there is any chance of us finding it, it has to be pretty soon," said DiVello adding that within hours garbage may be at a landfill or transfer station.

If trash is still on the truck, workers can sift through it. However, if it is a large truck with several stops, the odds of finding an item drop, he said.

Despite these odds, workers dug through the trash and found Freudenberg's mortgage payment.

Thomas Tomossonie, foreman of the Suburban Sanitation, based in Sag Harbor, said they get similar calls too. "A lot of it is money, jewelry, fine silverware," he said.

A year ago, DiVello's company got a call from Riverhead-based Tanger Outlets saying the company had accidentally thrown out important items. Outlet workers and a Mattituck Sanitation crew dug through piles of trash and located the items: several hundred expensive watches.

"We will do what we can," DiVello said. "We try to go out of our way to help people."

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