Customer Service and Beyond

February 22, 2008 --The expression about “finding a needle in a haystack” took on new meaning last week when two Middlesex County Improvement Authority (MCIA) recycling Division employees were able to locate a lost engagement ring and wedding ring that had mistakenly been put in a family’s recycling containers.

Linda Bode of Old Bridge said “I had lost all hope of finding my rings. The engagement ring is 110 years old, a family heirloom that belonged to my husband’s great aunt. It was re-set in 1988 when my husband and I became engaged.”

The adventure began the morning of February 15th when Linda realized she had included her rings, which were soaking in a cleaning solution jar, in with the recyclables out on the curb. She then saw that the recycling truck had already been on her street, so she called the MCIA recycling hotline.

Customer Service Representative, Mary Murray, took the call, put Linda on hold while she called the MCIA route supervisor, Ed Slavicek, who was monitoring recycling collections in Old Bridge that day. Ed traced the truck’s route and discovered that the driver had completed the route and was headed to Colgate Recycling in New Brunswick to unload.

The Middlesex County Improvement Authority oversees the county curbside recycling program, and sixteen municipalities, including Old Bridge, participate in the program. Waste Management of New Jersey is the contractor that provides recycling route service, and Waste Management contracts with Colgate Recycling for the processing of the recyclables.

Since Ed Slavicek was in Old Bridge, he met Linda Bode, and she followed him to the Colgate facility in New Brunswick. Colgate’s Vice President Steve DiNardi had already arranged for a special unloading of the truck, and when the driver arrived, he was told to wait for Linda and Ed. The MCIA’s Recycling Manager Ed Windas joined them and so did Colgate employee Ray Armangeon. The truck was unloaded separately in a special designated area. The load was tipped over an extremely long distance in order to be able to sort through it more easily.

At that point, because the recycling routes are consistently scheduled, the group was able to determine that Linda’s recycling would be toward the center of the load. Ed, Ed and Ray, armed with rakes, went into the middle of the recyclables and began sorting through the items, a rather messy and tedious task. They asked Linda to watch out for the items she had placed in her containers.

Linda did not think she would be able to locate her specific recycling items, but after 15 or 20 minutes, she saw some Fruit 2-0 bottles as well as some label-less Nestlé’s bottles. Linda’s daughter collects the Nestle labels for a school project, so she knew right away they were in the right spot. She also saw three empty cans that she had discarded from the previous night’s dinner. And sure enough Ed Slavicek located the jar of jewelry cleaner with the rings inside.

Linda said “I couldn’t thank them enough. You can’t replace a ring like this. I couldn’t believe that these men were willing to go to the trouble to find the rings.”

Ed Windas commented, “When Linda called, there was an urgency in her voice, and we sensed how upset she was. We wanted to help her, and I think the result takes customer service to a new level.”


Ed Windas Recycling Manager

Jane S. Leal
Middlesex County Improvement Authority