The Strange Loveliness of a New York Sanitation Garage

April 8, 2016

Today I want to share with you an article I came across on the internet last week.  I was dumbfounded when I read it! I just couldn’t believe how much perfectly good stuff people were throwing away. Working in both the film industry and as a spatial designer, waste removal is always part of each job I do. I have always been very concerned with avoiding putting things in a landfill whenever I can, hence this recent post ‘To Dump or Not To Dump’. But even though this article really disturbed me, and I hope that NZ isn’t this bad when it comes to trash, there is something really lovely about the fact that this man has spent 30 years saving all these treasures from a landfill and has displayed them lovingly for people to see.  Also, for those of you in New York or planning a trip there, you should check out The New York Adventure Club (mentioned below). Such a cool idea!

The words and photos are all by Dylan Thuras for Atlas Obsura. 



On the second floor of a nondescript warehouse owned by New York City’s Sanitation Department in East Harlem is a treasure trove—filled with other people’s trash.

Most of the building is used as a depot for garbage trucks, but there’s a secret collection that takes over an entire floor. The space is populated by a mind-bogglingly wide array of items: a bestiary of Tamagotchis, Furbies; dozens of Pez dispensers; female weight lifting trophies; 8-track tapes; plates, paintings, sporting equipment and much more.

This is the Treasures in the Trash collection, created entirely out of objects found by Nelson Molina, a now-retired sanitation worker, who began by decorating his locker. Collected over 30 years, it is a visual explosion, organized by type, color, and size. Recently, Atlas Obscura had the chance to visit the collection with the New York Adventure Club, take some photos, and revel in the vast creative possibilities of trash.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a collection that keeps regular hours; drop-ins are not allowed. For more information on the occasional organized tours, email

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Guitars, including an original Fender, surround the Michael Jackson shrine.

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New Yorkers would seem to hate pewter tableware considering how much of it they put in the trash.

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Art is a particular specialty of the collection. Nelson Molina grabbed any piece that caught his eye.

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Even being Superman won’t spare you the fate of being thrown in the garbage by New Yorkers with little space to spare. 

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A relaxing garden area, set aside for sanitation workers.

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Every object in the collection comes with an untold story, not least these three female body building trophies, all thrown away for reasons we will never know.

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Christmas, unsurprisingly, has a place in both the trash and in the Treasures in the Trash collection.

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A wonderful sense of humor infuses the entire collection.

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Some of the items left in trash are deeply personal.

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Toys are a major theme in the collection.

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Nothing is too sacred for the trash. Religious symbols abound.

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