A father has collected the world’s largest collection of empty chips packages – a staggering treasure of over 14,000.
Gary Key, 57, and his family browse 100 bags a week.
Eco warrior Gary started keeping the empty packages in 2012 because he felt guilty about sending them to the landfills.
His chip-loving partner Joanne Richardson soon came on board with the collection, and when she died he vowed to continue his “idiotic hobby” in her memory.
The avid recycler – whose favorite flavor is Walkers Cheese and Onion – holds every bag he and his family eat.
But he also picks up everything he sees throwing away on the street and in parks.
The collection is kept in his shed, but becomes so large that he begins to shrink the packages – by grilling them and rolling them up into small balls that he keeps in a large container.
Mr Key, of Cottingham, East Yorkshire, admits that his habit is unusual, but said he finds it reassuring to continue a project he started in her lifetime.
He said she called him an ‘idiot’ for his hobby, but when he suggested he quit, she told him ‘you better not’ and he has continued ever since.
He said, “I just continued what I was doing, knowing she would never get better.
“It inspires me to know she said that. I still do what I did when she was alive.
“Knowing she said,” do whatever you want, but I think you’re crazy. “
“Obviously she’s never coming back, but I kept going – that’s my inspiration.
“I’m doing it for her and it’s something to get out of my head. It picked me out. That gave me a lifeline because I collected them when she was alive. “
Gary started collecting everything from Hula Hoops to Skips to Walkers Cheese and Onion packs in March 2012 and now has about 14,200.
The enthusiastic recycler’s headstrong pursuit aimed to prevent the bags from going to landfill unnecessarily, while distracting himself from partner Joanne Richardson’s terminal breast cancer.
She was diagnosed in December 2009 and sadly died at the age of 43 in October 2012 – just seven months after Mr. Key started collecting empty wrappers.
Mr. Key and Mrs. Richardson were civil partners for 17 years before she died.
He was left to raise their four children – Jordan Richardson, 24, Ashley Richardson, 21, Ryan Richardson, 19, and Alisha Key, 11.
He buys multipacks of chips from grocery stores that spend an average of $ 6-7 a week on the snack.
He lives with Alisha and Ashley to help him eat them, and Ashley would have the most.
Mr Key, who has been unemployed without vascular surgery since 2003, bundled the packages in groups of 100 with elastic bands without making balls.
When he reached 8000 three years ago, he tried to sell them and planned to donate the proceeds to Macmillan Cancer Support, but was unable to find a buyer.
But this did not stop him from collecting.
Now he spends an hour grilling about 150 packs every night, then rolls them into balls in a process that takes ‘less than a minute’ each.
Then they are counted and stored in a large tub, which is almost full.
He said, “I have no idea how long I will keep collecting them. If that will put a smile on someone’s face, that’s good for me.
“I put others to myself.”
The environmentally conscious father said there were a few hundred in his collection to pick them up where others had flung them.
On one occasion, he was nearly beaten with a $ 75 fine from a police officer who thought Mr. Key had dropped the package – until he explained that he actually picked it up.
“I can recycle very well,” he said.