Millfields waste workers spend hours sifting through black bags to find Grazebrook Primary School’s bin diving teddy bear

Washed and back home, Teddy at Grazebrook Primary School. Picture: Hackney Council

Washed and back home, Teddy at Grazebrook Primary School. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

Bin collectors spent two and a half hours tearing open bags of waste to find a 59-year-old school teddy bear after it was accidently thrown away.

Glen Whitby and Steve Large at Millfields Depot, with Grazebrook Primary School's recovered teddy be

Glen Whitby and Steve Large at Millfields Depot, with Grazebrook Primary School's recovered teddy bear looking a little the worse for wear. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

Staff at Millfields Depot launched the search and rescue operation to track down Grazebrook Primary School's mascot, Teddy, on June 6.

Year 1 teacher Heather Oakley, 56, called the depot as soon as she realised the bear had been mistakenly put in the rubbish after, ironically, being packed into a black bag for safekeeping during a school event.

Operators redirected the truck, which had collected the school bins that morning and was on its way to an incinerator, back to the dump. Driver Paul King and colleagues Steve Large and Glen Whitby then emptied the 10 tonnes of rubbish and checked each bag for the toy.

Mrs Oakley said: "Teddy was a present given to my late husband Paul.

Glen Whitby, refuse and recycling manager at Millfields Depot, with the thank-you book he and his co

Glen Whitby, refuse and recycling manager at Millfields Depot, with the thank-you book he and his colleagues received from Grazebrook Primary School students. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Archant


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"One of the subjects in Year 1 is 'toys' and the children were writing a description of the old teddy bear."

Mrs Oakley said she was very upset when she resigned herself to the loss of the toy, but was blown away by the response of the staff who immediately understood its importance.

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"Apart from the relief of having this sentimental keepsake back, in the end what touched me the most was the team at the depot," she told the Gazette.

"They are knights in shining armour."

Drawings by Grazebrook Primary School children expressing their thanks to the bin collectors for res

Drawings by Grazebrook Primary School children expressing their thanks to the bin collectors for rescuing Teddy. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

Every child in the class drew a picture of Teddy to create a custom version of the book This Is the Bear to thank the crew.

Glen Whitby, refuse and recycling manager, said: "The bear had a very close call, but since he was such a beloved member of the community at Grazebrook School, we knew we had to act.

"Now, after a good scrub and a few replaced stitches, it's great to hear he's back at his desk and enjoying school again."

There are plans for the children to visit the dump to learn about rubbish and recycling and a display about Teddy's adventure will go on show at the school in September.

Cllr Jon Burke, whose cabinet portfolio includes waste and sustainability, said: "Like a fictional toy story come to life, here's hoping Teddy will have another 59 years or more bringing joy to children at the school."

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