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Complaints about junk collectors surge across Japan

(Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (NCAC) received more than 1,200 complaints and inquiries annually for 10 consecutive years about junk collectors that pick up oversized garbage when people move home, among other work.

The NCAC is calling for people to make careful judgment in advance by asking several collectors authorized by the local government to provide an estimate for picking up secondhand items.

According to the NCAC, it received 767 inquiries about junk collectors in fiscal 2008. However, the number sharply increased to 1,225 in fiscal 2009. The consumer group was hit with a record 1,859 complaints in fiscal 2010 and continued to receive about 1,200 inquiries every year from then on.

One reason for the rise in the number is due to Japan's aging society, in which massive amounts of waste are generated when people sort through possessions of their deceased family members or when elderly people clean up their belongings while alive. The NCAC also explain that online advertisements for such collectors have increased, as well as flyers delivered to people's homes.

A woman in her 50s residing in the Kinki region in western Japan made an inquiry with the NCAC after receiving an extortionate bill from a junk collector she had asked to pick up unwanted goods. The woman chose that option as she had seen an online advertisement reading it would only cost 40,000 yen for the collector to pick up items weighing up to 1.5 metric tons in total.

However, an employee who arrived at her home in a truck explained she would have to pay 300,000 yen as there were a lot of items. The woman had no choice but to sign a contract as the man provided the explanation after he had loaded the truck. "I'm not happy because the price was different to what was first explained (online). I regret asking the junk collector," she stated.

People who remove unwanted items must have local government permission to pick up secondhand goods, and doing so without authorization would constitute a violation of the Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law, according to the Ministry of the Environment. Furthermore, there are cases in which collectors with malicious intentions illegally dump items without taking proper measures.

The ministry's Office for Recycling Promotion is also calling for people to avoid using such junk collectors without careful consideration and is recommending that people ask their local governments to collect such items. An official at the office stated, "While victims can suffer monetary damage, if items are dumped illegally, heavy metal in consumer electronics and other objects can lead to environmental pollution."

(Japanese original by Toshiyuki Suzuki, Science & Environment News Department)

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