It’s Trash2Treasure season. This club proves one person’s junk is another’s treasure

Kari Du and Amy Tey wheeling a red Trash2Treasure bin in East Village.
Students Kari Du and Amy Tey, setup Trash2Treasure bins in East Village on Dec. 7, 2023. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

It’s the holiday season, final exams are coming and many students will soon be moving out of dorms to study abroad or begin co-ops in the spring. 

That means it’s “Trash2Treasure Season.”

“If any of my friends reach out, I tell them, ‘nobody talk to me right now — it’s Trash2Treasure season,’” says Kari Du, co-president of the sustainability club on Northeastern’s Boston campus. “But thinking about the impact we’re having and how much stuff we’re diverting from landfills, it’s so worth it.”

Trash2Treasure is a student club that aims to increase campus sustainability through efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. Its signature events are end-of-semester collections and then beginning-of-semester sales of students’ discarded items. 

On Thursday, the red bins went out — meaning this semester’s collection has already begun. Collection runs until Friday, Dec. 15. The sale will be held in January.

A red Trash 2 Treasure donation box with the T2T logo over top of a paw print on it.
Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Du and co-president Amy Tey are preparing for quite the undertaking.

At their last collection in the spring, the club diverted 11,428 pounds of materials from landfills. 

Their subsequent sale was attended by more than 500 people and netted $7,057. Thanks to a unique profit-sharing arrangement with campus clubs whose members volunteer to help T2T, 56% of this revenue was given back to 24 student clubs.

“I love that we have a circular economy of not just items, but also of money as a force of good in our community on campus,” Tey says. 

Moreover, the group collaborates with local organizations such as NU Mutual Aid, Feed the Hood and More than Words to deliver food, hygiene/cleaning products and household items.

Last year, they donated more than 500 pounds of such goods. 

Meanwhile, the sale is so popular that different shopping strategies have emerged. 

Some are early birds: one student showed up two hours before the doors opened last year and got a sweatshirt for his effort. 

Then there are the late arrivals looking for freebies. 

“In the last half-hour, we’ve had everything go for free,” Du says. “You may hear us yell out ‘take whatever you can.’”

Items that remain unsold are upcycled or broken down and recycled to the extent possible through NU Facilities or local recycling firms. This means that 5,477 pounds of clothing and fabric items were recycled through the organization Helpsy and 700 pounds of mattress toppers were recycled with Green Mattress last semester. 

And yes, they’ve seen some interesting items left behind.

“Last semester, somebody donated a pack of mealworms — like you’d feed to birds,” Du says. 

Du and Tey, who will graduate in May, have been involved in the club since freshman year. They say it’s been rewarding to see their interest in thrifting and sustainability come to be embraced by the Northeastern community. 

“I think (T2T) is very representative of the types of students Northeastern has: business-minded, entrepreneurial, community-driven, experiential, lifelong learners who care about having an impact and getting things done,” Tey says. “That is something I feel is very unique to Northeastern.”

Cyrus Moulton is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on X/Twitter @MoultonCyrus.