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Requests to clean young singles' 'garbage houses' skyrocket in Tokyo amid pandemic

Yosuke Kawakami, president of Rerise, which opened a branch office in Minato Ward, Tokyo, due to a sharp increase in requests and consultations for cleaning up "garbage houses," is seen on Jan. 14, 2021, in Kohoku Ward, Yokohama. (Mainichi/Yoshiki Koide)

YOKOHAMA -- As a result of the spread of the coronavirus, the number of requests and consultations for cleaning up "garbage houses," where people's homes are overflowing with their belongings, has been increasing sharply in Tokyo.

    It is believed that this is due to the fact that young single people, who are commonly living in urban areas, have refrained from going out, and have increased their use of food and drink deliveries and online shopping, which tend to produce trash.

    In December 2020, waste collection and cleaning company Rerise, established in 2006 in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, opened a branch in Minato Ward, Tokyo. According to the company, the number of cleaning requests and consultations from general households in January and February 2020 was about 80 per month, but after March of the same year, when coronavirus infections spread, the number more than doubled to around 190.

    Eighty percent of the clients are single people in their 20s to late 30s, and 70% of them are women. It is said that the following processes are often seen before an apartment turns into a garbage house. First, the resident increases their activities at home, such as working where they live to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, then they don't eat out and use food delivery services such as Uber Eats, and then the garbage after eating accumulates in their apartments.

    A typical reason why people keep trash in their apartments is that they put off discarding it, thinking that they will clean it all at once at some point in the future, but in the end, they don't throw it away. They often delay the cleanup in anticipation of calling in cleaners when they receive their salary bonus or other large amounts of income. In some cases, they use the garbage-filled bags to sleep on, or leave them in their home even when they are crawling with bugs.

    There are few cases where these residents voluntarily ask for their apartments to be cleaned. Often, they have no choice but to request the work after receiving complaints from landlords or neighbors due to strange odors. And there are also cases where people are forced to clean up after losing or seeing a fall in their income due to the pandemic, forcing them to move into their parents' homes or apartments with lower rent.

    Of these requests and consultations, 70% were from within Tokyo. Yosuke Kawakami, 33, president of Rerise, thinks that the reason for the increase in the capital is that "there are many young single people who cannot rely on their families."

    "People who stay at home or become economically unstable due to the coronavirus pandemic are under a lot of stress, which is thought to have caused a kind of illness where they cannot throw things away. I think that homes full of garbage is a problem triggered by the distortion of society," Kawakami said.

    (Japanese original by Yoshiki Koide, Yokohama Bureau)

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