Japanese municipalities lean on flea market websites to reduce oversize waste

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Workers sort through unwanted household items at a trial recycle facility in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

Local governments have been joining hands with online flea markets to sell discarded household items such as furniture and electric appliances that would have otherwise ended up on the scrap heap.

There has been an increase in the number of oversized items being thrown away by households and the surge has been linked to the pandemic. With more time being spent at home, some say people have been using that time to sort through their things and throw out unused items.

In early November, workers were busy sorting used furniture and other items at a facility in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, that is operated by the ward and Jimoty Inc., a classified ads website.

“I’m sure there’ll be someone willing to take this for ¥500, or even ¥1,000,” one of the workers said while pricing items.

The facility has been operating as a drop-off spot for unwanted goods on a trial basis since October.

Items brought in by ward residents are posted on the company’s website. Bargain hunters can visit the facility and pick up items, some of which are free of charge.

Jimoty has been trying to get local governments to use its service as many of the discarded household items that are collected by municipalities can be reused.

Sellers incur no fees for posting items on the site. The site makes money mainly through advertising revenue.

The response from local governments has been positive. The first agreement was signed with Saitama City in February last year.

As of November, 34 municipalities are utilizing the company’s service.

The municipalities have been promoting the company’s service to their residents and encouraging them to post unwanted items. Local officials have even posted items that have been discarded as oversize trash.

About 2,400 of the about 2,600 items taken to the facility in Setagaya Ward now have new owners.

In major municipalities in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the amount of oversize garbage collected last fiscal year increased by more than 10% compared to the previous fiscal year.

People discarding or replacing furniture and other household items while they were at home amid the pandemic is thought to be behind the surge.

Kawasaki, which saw a 15% increase in the amount of bulky waste collected compared to the previous year, has been using Jimoty and Market Enterprise, a company that offers similar services, on a trial basis since October as part of efforts to reduce waste.

Market Enterprise offers a service through which people can auction unwanted items that the site’s about 1,000 partners such as thrift stores bid for.

Kawasaki’s oversize waste collection website has links to Jimoty and Market Enterprise and includes information about how to use the services.

“Compared to our own efforts, we can achieve more with the help of the internet,” a Kawasaki official said. “I think we can expect a much greater reduction in oversize waste.”