One person’s trash is their treasure

During the Spring 2008 move-out, then-Northeastern sophomore Dan Abrams noticed his roommate was preparing to junk an unwanted toaster.

“There was nothing wrong with it,” Abrams recalls. “I didn’t think it should just go into the trash. It was perfectly fine.”

So Abrams took it home to New York for the summer, and the topic came up one day with a friend attending another university, who mentioned her institution had a student-led initiative to collect similar items students were looking to throw away. “I came back my third year thinking this was something that has to come to Northeastern’s campus,” said Abrams, who passed that same toaster along to another friend.

His goal ultimately blossomed into Trash2Treasure, a student-run program sponsored by the Husky Energy Action Team (HEAT), which works toward environmental sustainability and carbon neutrality at the University.

Abrams said Trash2Treasure hopes to create a cycle of community reuse. The program encourages students to donate items they might otherwise throw away before and during the move-out period. Those items are stored off-campus over the summer and then sold back to students at a garage sale event during Welcome Week. The money raised is donated to a local charity, Alternatives for Community and Environment.

In the three years since Trash2Treasure has held end-of-year collections, the most popular items donated have included college-life staples such as clothing, television sets, mirrors and plastic storage units. This year, the items included new North Face jackets, running shoes and even a Chia Pet. Abrams still remembers the first item Trash2Treasure ever collected – a six-foot-long blue plastic sled.

“It’s not that difficult to sell students on giving us their stuff, because we want what they already don’t want,” Abrams said.

In fall 2010, Trash2Treasure was able to donate $5,000 from collections over the first two years. In addition, the group also donated 378 pounds of non-perishable food collected through the program to the Greater Boston Food Bank, Abrams said.

After the fall 2011 sale, Abrams expects to eclipse the 2010 figure for money raised — in part due to the efforts of the facilities staff at Northeastern, who provided logistical support and extra hands to make the program a growing success.

“Trash2Treasure is a great student initiative that facilities is delighted to support,” said Jack Malone, director of facilities services. “We think it’s only going to get better year in and year out.”

The organization has also partnered with Door to Door, a national company providing moving and storage services.

“It’s exploded beyond our expectations,” said Abrams, who graduated earlier this month with an environmental sciences degree. He is now working for the Environmental Protection Agency in Boston, one of his co-op employers at Northeastern.