DURHAM — Over the course of three days, nearly 45 tons of used furniture, clothes, kitchenware and other college dormitory accessories made their way out of the Whittemore Center and into the rooms and apartments of incoming University of New Hampshire students.
It is the third year students have organized the Trash 2 Treasure event. This year, they raised more than $22,000 selling the piles of stuff they collected from outgoing students this past spring, items that otherwise would have gone in the trash.
The effort has been so successful, that founder and recent UNH graduate Alex Freid is working to take it national.
For the past several months he and others have been gathering momentum for PLAN, the Post-Landfill Action Network, including an indiegogo.com campaign to raise $50,000 to get it started. The campaign received a boost at the start of the weekend sale with a commitment from Tom's of Maine to match up to $20,000 in donations received by PLAN.
Freid said he does not think they will have a problem meeting the end goal.
He said it is a dream come true that the effort has been such a success, but was also the goal from day one.
"When we came up with the idea for Trash 2 Treasure it was a result of us looking at the problem and realizing it was a problem nationally and we set out to build a program … that could work anywhere," Freid said.
PLAN is currently operating out of the new Durham home of the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center, which was created in part to help commercialize businesses, ideas and innovations developed at the university.
With the success of the UNH event over the last three years, they are now trying to develop the process for scale, including establishing relationship with businesses that will allow campuses to join together to get better rates on truck rentals or to recycle hard to recycle items.
He said the program is a win for students and for universities. Three years ago, the tons of stuff now collected by Trash 2 Treasure was thrown out on campus and cost the university to get rid of it."We hope that universities will look at this and see it as the type of thing that any university should have and we hope that students see the value in this program and look for a university with programs like that," Freid said. "There is no reason for a university not to have this program."
A core group of about 10 students run Trash 2 Treasure with about 100 volunteers over the three-day sale, which this year saw more than 5,000 students and parents come through.
Freid said the Tom's matching donation will support a good chunk of the organization's work moving forward in the first year as they launch the program at a national level.
The goal is to take on between 15 to 20 campuses next year through membership, starting with colleges and universities in the Northeast. Freid said they have been in talks with Northeastern University, Plymouth State University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, although nothing is finalized.
Members would work like a co-op, with the ability to recycle certain items collectively.
The indiegogo.com campaign is live through Sept. 5.