- Covanta estimates that U.S. residents throw away an estimated $61.8 million in coins every year by dropping them, vacuuming them up or otherwise losing them, as reported by Bloomberg.
- The company itself recovers about $360,000 in coins per year through magnets and other equipment. They plan to open a facility that can sort aluminum, copper and coins from East Coast plants next year.
- The U.S. Mint hasn't been purchasing salvaged coins since last November due to an unrelated counterfeiting operation. While that issue was resolved by a federal judge this past summer, the Mint hasn't said whether it will restart the program.
Covanta has spent about $70 million since 2011 on magnets and other sorting equipment which have recovered about 2 million tons of metal during that time. As reported by CBS News, the company finds about 25 cents in each ton of waste it handles. Silverware, rings and other random objects that survive the combustion process are also common discoveries.
Noticing the potential for profits from the metals in bottom ash, many waste-to-energy (WTE) have been investing in recovery options. Multiple projects are underway in Pennsylvania, including one at a facility operated by Covanta, and Republic Services has teamed up with Lab USA to open a new ash metal recovery facility in Washington. In addition to selling the recovered metals a slowly growing number of WTE operators have been looking at other beneficial reuses for the ash.
Found coins may be a small part of these recovery operations but they point to a larger trend of people not seeing the value in their waste. Though in this case it's more about oversight than negligence. The Transportation Security Administration reports that it in 2014 it also collected $675,000 in spare change.