Chinese New Year spring cleaning means more work for cleaners and some charitable groups as home owners discard old furniture, some of which are unfit for use.

Founder of volunteer network, Keeping Hope Alive, Ms Fion Phua, 53, told The New Paper in January 2020 that she normally receives five requests a month from people who want to donate used furniture. But during festive periods, she can receive up to 30 donation offers a day.

Charity Groups Receive Furniture In Bad Condition

What frustrates her is that some of these items are so badly damaged or filthy, they cannot be given to anyone.

Her teams have made many trips only to find broken shelves, torn mattresses and furniture infested with bugs. Ms Phua said: “Spring cleaning season is the worst. People make use of our energy to throw away items they don’t want.”

Sometimes, people get angry when their donations are rejected. Ms Phua said: “They are not being generous. They just want to get rid of what they don’t need.”

Cleaners in housing estates also see more unwanted bulky items during festive periods.

A cleaning supervisor in Choa Chu Kang said the amount of bulky items his workers have had to clear has risen by almost three times this festive season.

Furniture Dumping Increases Over Festive Periods

A cleaner in Choa Chu Kang told TNP he has been collecting bulky items from homes to be thrown in large waste containers. The cleaner told TNP: “These large open-top bins usually take a week to fill, but (during festive periods) it only takes two to three days.”

Similarly, a cleaning supervisor in the estate said: “The amount of bulky items my men have had to clear has increased by almost three times this season.”

That means they work longer hours, clearing bulky items from void decks and ensuring pathways are not blocked and to prevent fire hazards.

A Woodlands resident, who wanted to be known only as Ms Goh, told TNP: “When I was on the way to work (on Tuesday morning), I was greeted by at least six cockroaches on a discarded sofa set at the rubbish chute of my block.”

Admiralty’s Proper Bulky Furniture Disposal

The situation is better at Admiralty. Housewife Sandhya Pidakala, 51, who has been living there for 22 years, said: “Even during the Chinese New Year period, we rarely see our neighbours dumping and cluttering the rubbish area downstairs.

“I think everyone tries to dispose of their rubbish properly.”

To prevent bulky items from accumulating, many town councils offer removal services. Residents can arrange for items to be collected outside their homes.

Keat Hong Link, Choa Chu Kang
Nobody owned up to throwing away items like old sofas and mattresses in at least three blocks in Choa Chu Kang Avenue 7 and Keat Hong Link.

Keat Hong Link Furniture Dumping

Back in 2016, residents of new flats in Choa Chu Kang have complained that their walkways and lift landings are becoming cluttered with litter, bulky refuse and unwanted furniture.

Nobody owned up to throwing away the likes of old sofas, computer desks and mattresses in at least three blocks in Choa Chu Kang Avenue 7 and Keat Hong Link – all of which have been occupied in 2016.

However, it is believed that careless neighbours and workmen could be responsible.

According to Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao, rubbish chutes from the second to eighth floors at Block 817A, Keat Hong Link, were jammed full of litter, causing a foul smell and attracting flies.

The Housing Board also found that refuse-handling equipment attached to the central chute on the ground floor had malfunctioned. A spokesman said: “This was caused by the improper disposal of bulky refuse and renovation debris into the chute, which jammed the chute between floors.”

Works were carried out over the weekend to clear the accumulating refuse and the equipment was working again come Monday.

When The Straits Times visited the blocks, the situation had improved slightly. However, some bulky litter could still be spotted at lift landings and stairwells. Residents said the problem has been inconveniencing them for several months, even though the town council had regularly been sending cleaners to deal with the mess.

One resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee said he was unable to open the common chute near his floor’s lift landing because it was stuffed with rubbish.

The 40-year-old engineer had to take his rubbish bags to the first floor to dispose of them. He added that he has seen paint cans, carton boxes and even wash basins left behind at lift landings on the ground floor. “A lot of the rubbish accumulates,” he said. “It blocks the pavements and can be quite dangerous for young kids.”

Choa Chu Kang Town Council has put up notices warning of $500 fines for anyone caught dumping rubbish illegally in common areas and refuse chutes.

Resident and warehouse manager Gerry Ng, 33, called for stricter enforcement, adding: “It’s very inconsiderate to people staying here. It’s a public place but people are just throwing their things away.”

The HDB added that residents who want to throw away bulky items should approach their renovation contractor or town council.

Furniture Dumping Breeds Mosquitoes

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has also been reminding home owners doing spring cleaning to properly dispose of refuse, including large furniture or household items, to prevent mosquitoes from breeding .

In a statement, NEA reported an increase in dengue cases in the past three weeks, with 345 reported in the second week of 2020.

MP for Nee Soon GRC, Madam Lee Bee Wah, told TNP in 2020: “Bulky items disposed of improperly could lead to dangers such as pest infestation, falling on passers-by (and) blocking fire escape routes.

“As dengue cases and a lesser-seen dengue serotype (strain) have been on the rise, mosquito-breeding is especially a concern this year.”

Where to Dispose Bulky Furniture?

Home owners can discard their unwanted items through various channels. Bulky item removal services are available at many housing board estates.

Town councils such as the Choa Chu Kang Town Council offer the service for free for their residents, who can apply for items to be removed on an online form. Applicants place unwanted items outside their flats for town council workers to collect and dispose of.

Read More: 12 Furniture Disposal Places for Your Bulky Furniture

These items must not include renovation debris, removal of built-in features, or extremely large furniture such as three-door wardrobes.

Another option is an initiative by Sembcorp and the National Environment Agency called Cash for Trash. There are more than 100 designated Cash for Trash areas to exchange items for cash at the various exchange rates.

Some of these locations are in the neighbourhoods’ resident committees such as Woodlands and Bishan.

The items include paper, clothing, soft toys, aluminium drink cans, small electrical appliances and plastic and glass bottles.

Charities such as The Salvation Army offer door-to-door collection services for bulky items.

Part of this article first appeared on The Straits Times in 2016 and 2020.