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New York Man Spends Over 30 Years Turning Trash Into Treasure


For over 30 years Nelson Molina collected tens of thousands of items thrown out in the trash all over New York City, creating his own incredible museum of precious artifacts. Working with New York City’s Sanitation Department he would find treasure all over the city, but not being able to take them home, he began placing his finds in a vacant room owned by the department. They would slowly grow into what he now calls the “Treasure in the Trash” collection.

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Molina salvaged over 50,000 items from the trash for his collection. “It’s just amazing the things people throw out. You know, people just don’t want,” Molina said.

Each table in Molina’s museum has some kind of a theme to it. Among his most prized items is a signed photo of WWII veterans, a collection of silent 8 mm films and a Star of David made out of steel from one of the World Trade Center buildings.

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Molina finds the most stuff in the summer time when most people move.

“I’ve always said if there’s anything someone sees here and they’d like it back then I would take a picture with them and I’d give it right back to them.”

He began his hobby of collecting when he was just a young boy. Growing up with five other siblings, they didn’t get much for Christmas, Molina said. So he would take to the streets finding toys and other items that he could clean or fix up to give as gifts to his family. Molina said his siblings thought of him as Santa Claus.

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Currently, the museum is not open to the public as it is located in a vacant room in the Department of Sanitation. Private tours can be arranged through City Hall and with tour groups such as the New York Adventure Club.

“We throw away too many things,” Molina says. “New Yorkers need to recycle more and waste less. These are things people could donate to someone, but they just put it in a box or a bag and threw it out. They didn’t want to waste the time,” Molina lamented.

Nelson retired in 2015 and said he hopes the city will keep the collection of “trash,” possibly move it to a nicer building and open it up as a museum to the public.