You slog through the airport, dutifully take your shoes off, and dump all your various electronics and bagged toiletries into nothing less than 17 different bins at the security checkpoint. Somehow an item or two you forgot to put in your checked bag end up confiscated. Where does it end up?
It turns out there are three levels of confiscation and disposal. The simplest is when you forget to throw away a big water bottle before going through the checkpoint, or you have a large half-used container of sunscreen in your carryon—items like that just go directly into the trash as they’re already used.
In other cases, confiscated items end up donated: it varies widely by state and airport, and while some airports have contractors that dispose of seized items, other airports try to donate what they can (like sending boxes of confiscated scissors to schools).
While you probably assumed that your stuff ended up in the trash, you may not have realized your confiscated stuff might end up in a giant state surplus sale. Over at Lifehacker they explain:
Lastly, depending on the item, your possessions might just find a new home. According to Koshetz, each TSA-federalized airport has a contract with a state surplus agency that puts certain items from travelers on the market for anyone to purchase. While you may not be able to recover the item from TSA directly, you could, feasibly, do an online search for your local state’s surplus agency and re-purchase your missing item (though it might take a lot of work and research just to find it).
So while you might not ever find the specific pair of sweet brass knuckles you had to abandon at the checkpoint, with a little bit of digging around on your state’s surplus auction pages, you might find an equally sweet replacement.