A Tale of Two Bins – Trash 2 Treasure


For more than two years, the normally semesterly Trash 2 Treasure sale at Northeastern was on hold due to the coronavirus. That changed on Saturday, January 22 at the science quad tents on Northeastern University’s Boston campus.

The sale was a resounding success, diverting about 1,200 pounds of belongings from the trash. 800 pounds were resold, while the other 400 pounds were donated to HELPSY, an organization dedicated to reusing and recycling clothing.

But what exactly does Trash 2 Treasure do? The student-run organization’s mission is to divert waste by collecting and reselling belongings that students would otherwise throw away during the move out process at the end of each semester.

“It helps bring the idea of how we consume and use products sustainably to the front of Northeastern’s mind,” Sam Cox, the president of Trash 2 Treasure, said.

It seems like a simple idea, but 1,200+ pounds of belongings don’t collect themselves.

Students are encouraged to donate any household goods to the red Trash 2 Treasure bins located in many residence halls. Starting at the beginning of finals, the group runs volunteer shifts 10-12 hours per day to transport and sort everything collected. The collection is stored in the Curry Student Center until the sale at the beginning of the next semester.

After the sale wraps up, the club members take a small cut of the money from the sale for themselves, and usually use it to fund future club meetings. The rest of the money gets shared proportionally to all the student organizations that helped make it happen, creating what Cox calls a circular economy at Northeastern.

“We’re creating this whole circular loop and the money is being kept in the Northeastern community; it’s good for everyone.”


Trash 2 Treasure started as a sub-committee of HEAT (the Husky Environmental Action Team) in 2009. In 2011, the group approached Mark Boulter, the senior director of building services, for help getting the program up and running.

“It’s a chance to have a second life for all these items… and it’s a way of diverting it from the trash can, which we end up paying for. I saw it as a big win – win,” Boulter said. In 2016, Trash 2 Treasure became its own club because it had become such a large operation. “I think it’s great to have student input,” Boulter said. “We’re here to support student organizations and to move their good initiatives forward and support that. That’s why we’re here.”

By 2020, almost the entire club consisted of fourth- and fifth-year students, and after graduation, they were left with only three members. Instead of giving up, the team decided to focus on recruitment efforts.

“It’s been an adventure,” Cox said, “but I think that we’re all really putting in the work, and I think that it’s been really rewarding to see those numbers grow.”

Along with continuing the tradition of semesterly sales, one goal that Cox has for Trash 2 Treasure is the creation of an online platform to facilitate the free transfer of belongings between members of the Northeastern community. “That’s a longer-term thing, working out how we do that logistically and what our role would be in creating that,” he said.

Whatever happens next, it’s evident that the club is in good hands, and will continue to be a valuable part of sustainability efforts at Northeastern.

For more information on Trash 2 Treasure, visit their Linktree page here.


Written by Adam Doucette – February 1, 2022
Photos by Alex Gritsinin  









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