Vacating your Milton Park apartment? There's an alternative to dumping your stuff on the curb

Trash2Treasure, a recycling project running from April 24 until May 1 in Milton Park, next to McGill University, aims to find new homes for furniture and household items left behind by departing students that otherwise end up in the landfill.

Trash2Treasure collects, donates items to groups helping low-income Montrealers

Done with that desk? Pass it on to the next person with Trash2Treasure

5 months ago
Duration 2:21
The Milton Park neighbourhood deals with a flood of trash after every school year. One organization is trying to curb that waste and pass on salvaged treasures to the next cohort.

It's spring in Milton Park, just east of McGill University, and as the semester winds down, students vacating the neighbourhood's rowhouses and mid-rise brick buildings have begun clearing out their apartments.

Discarded desks, chairs, lamps and bags full of winter clothing and bedding are already piling up on Milton Park's sidewalks — the consequence of departing students juggling hasty moves with exams.

Come May 1, that scene will get worse, says Lauren Harrison, a McGill student about to graduate with a degree in bioengineering.

Trash on the curb.
This photo, taken in 2021, shows accumulated trash outside an apartment building in Milton Park after students who lived there moved out at the end of their winter semester. (Lauren Harrison)

"Every year the streets of this specific neighbourhood are lined with trash to the point where it's disgusting. It's overflowing the sidewalks. It's fully consumed the neighbourhood," she said. 

But on Monday, a small orange buggy quietly pulled up outside Harrison's apartment, and a trio of workers carried out a printer, a desk, some lamps and a few pillows. They loaded up the buggy, drove it a block away and deposited their haul in a waiting shipping container. 

The items will get a second life. They're destined to be donated to low-income families or students. 

"This is a great way to help," said Jean-Sébastien Matte, the general director of the Société pour l'action, l'éducation et la sensibilisation environnementale de Montréal (SAESEM), an environmental non-profit. 

Man standing.
Jean-Sébastien Matte, the general director of the Société pour l’action, l’éducation et la sensibilisation environnementale de Montréal (SAESEM), stands in front of a shipping container used to hold the collected material. (Matthew Lapierre/CBC)

SAESEM's project in Milton Park, called Trash2Treasure, runs April 24 until May 1. This is the sixth iteration, and if this year is like past years, according to Matte, it will prevent seven tonnes of material from ending up in the landfill. 

In 2022, 150 people donated items, all of which were recycled.

Some of what is collected ends up at the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity, while other items are donated to groups such as the Welcome Collective, which helps newcomers to Montreal. 

Donating items is easy, Matte said. People need only make an appointment with SAESEM, which they can do via the organization's website, and have the items ready when the workers and volunteers come to pick them up. 

The project is important, Matte said, because it gives items a second life. It's also good for the environment.

Orange buggy.
This electric vehicle picks up junk that otherwise would end up in the landfill. (Matthew Lapierre/CBC)

The orange buggy that picks up the material is electric, and the project contributes to countering over-consumption. 

"There's plenty of material out there," Matte said. "It's in good condition. It has worked for five, 10, 20 years. Why shouldn't it be good for another 20 years, another 40 years? It can be repaired; it can be fixed."

Truck full of stuff.
An electric vehicle used to collect recyclable items in Milton Park is full of old stuff that will be donated to low-income families. (Matthew Lapierre/CBC)

Harrison heard about the pickup through the Students' Society of McGill University, which has worked with SAESEM to help gather the material in the neighbourhood for six years — an attempt to find a use for some of the contents of students' apartments that ended up discarded on Milton Park's sidewalks on moving day. 

"I take pretty good care of my stuff," Harrison said, "so I'm excited to know that somebody else is going to get use out of it."


Matthew Lapierre is a digital journalist at CBC Montreal. He previously worked for the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail. You can reach him at

With files from Valeria Cori-Mannochio