Trash2Treasure recycles unwanted household items to furnish refugees’ homes

The Trash2Treasure pilot project turned five tons of used household goods left behind by students moving out into furnishings for refugee families.
In all, five tons of used household items were diverted from landfills by Trash2Treasure volunteers.

The elephant has left the room – or at least the Milton Park neighbourhood.

Between April 27 and May 6, volunteers from the Trash2Treasure (T2T) pilot project collected five ton – the average weight of an African elephant – of used household goods left behind by students moving out at the end of the term. Adding to that success, enough recyclable material was amassed to furnish the homes of 19 refugee families.

The first concerted attempt by McGill and the surrounding community to reduce the amount of detritus dumped on the streets by departing students got good marks from all involved.

“At the Students’ Society of McGill University Community Affairs we’re really happy with the results of the project, particularly with the positive feedback we received from both the Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee (MPCC), and Milton-Parc student residents,” says Law student and SSMU Community Affairs Commissioner Julien Tremblay Gravel, one of the organizers of T2T 2018. “We had predicted that the group that would be most likely to use T2T would be graduating students, and it looks like we were right.”

In all, 83 students signed up to have their unwanted goods picked up for free, and 49 appointments were carried out. Most of those who signed up were members of the SSMU. Volunteers also collected goods abandoned on the streets around McGill.

The work was done by thirteen volunteers from McGill and seven from the Programme régional d’accueil et d’intégration des demandeurs d’asile (PRAIDA), an organization that helps refugees and those who need help with their immigration status.

Household goods were sorted and donated to two well-known Montreal charities, Welcome Collective and Renaissance Montreal. Welcome Collective delivers quality household items to asylum seeker families that have been assigned unfurnished apartments. Renaissance Montreal helps people reintegrate into the work force by employing them in the recycling and selling of used goods in over 20 stores across the greater Montreal area.

Instead of ending up in a landfill, the five tons of furniture and household items were used to furnish the homes of 19 refugee families.

The annual spring harvest of objects abandoned on the streets and in the lanes around the campus is a longstanding irritant for permanent residents. Past attempts by student groups to address the problem provided the foundations to this year’s project.

T2T is a collaboration between borough officials, SSMU, the office of the Dean of Students, Student Housing and Hospitality Services, the MPCC, and the Société pour l’Action, l’Éducation et la Sensibilisation Environnementale de Montréal  (SAESEM), a non-profit organization specializing in sustainable solutions to waste management.