Singapore

Valuable, useful items among discarded things left for waste removers

Junk disposal firms donate or recycle such items

A pair of the latest Puma trainers and an apparently unused Louis Vuitton wallet are not what most people would throw away, but they are among the discarded items salvaged by junk disposal firms here.

Other finds include a Rolex watch, antique furniture and collectable Lego sets.

Junk disposal companies - usually hired to remove unwanted items from homes - told The Straits Times that such finds are not uncommon.

Mr Wilson Lee, customer service manager at Junk To Clear, said his firm has collected new clothes, shoes and toys, some still in unopened packaging.

"My guess is that people buy things on impulse," said the 40-year-old, whose company donates usable items to the needy or sends them for recycling.

"When things become useless for the owners, they become junk... even though they may still be useful to others."

Removal jobs can take 15 minutes to six hours.

When ST went with a team from Junk To Clear last week, two workers removed a fitness machine, a plasma display panel and two televisions, among other things, from a third-floor apartment within 20 minutes.

Companies said that about 60 per cent of items in pristine condition are left behind by expatriates, who often relocate at short notice. Others are from local residents with no space for them.

Mr Colin Loy, managing director of BulkyWaste Removal, said it may be more convenient for expats to dispose of their furniture.

"It may cost more if they have to move the items to another place," added the 32-year-old, who has been in the business for six years.

FEES

Disposal fees start from about $50 and can go beyond $1,000, depending on factors such as location, number and type of items as well as whether there are stairs to climb to reach the customer's unit.

Junk disposal firms pick out items they deem usable to donate to charities. Some items are also sold to waste recycling firms or second-hand dealers.

Mr Irwan Mohamed Ali, director of moving company A Bros Communication, has received furniture such as bed frames and television consoles that looked just a few months old.

The 32-year-old, who has been in the business for about five years, donates them to needy families.

It is "a big waste" when people dispose of items in good condition, Mr Irwan said.

Even karung guni collectors - who eke out a living by buying and reselling old newspapers, clothes and household appliances - have picked up fairly new items.

These include leisure items, from golf clubs to gadgets such as iPhones and GPS devices.

A well-worn pair of Hush Puppies leather shoes can fetch $5. A Swiss Army watch in good condition is marked higher, at $12.

These rag-and-bone men, who usually earn $500 to $600 a month, sometimes unknowingly resell valuable items at low prices in flea markets or online auctions.

Mr Koh Eng Khoon, chairman of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods, said karung guni collectors occasionally chance upon antiques, which they later sell cheaply.

"When some elderly people pass on, their kids would sell the belongings they do not want to keep, including their antique collection," the 77-year-old said in Mandarin.

"Some vintage collectors are surprised when they see us selling such antiques at a bargain.

"It is only then that we realise the real value of such items."

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