Take My Junk was a pioneer in the UAE’s junk-collection space when it came on to the scene in 2009. The free-of-cost service founded by Ajman resident Faisal Khan would collect unwanted items from UAE homes and either sell them at a low price, donate them or discard them.
Over the last couple of years, several copycat junk removal services have sprung up, many with the same or similar names such as Remove My Junk, Junk Removals, Free Junk Removals and Junk Removal Dubai.
“I know that some companies charge Dh200 to Dh400 per visit and they claim to be our company … but that's not us,” says Mr Khan, a Canadian who moved to the UAE 11 years ago. “We get this question every day from customers: Do you charge? … Because there’s a lot of misunderstanding.”
However, some customers have complained that even the original Take My Junk, which has an optional tipping policy, has asked for payments to remove bulky items. Mr Khan says he has fired some staff who customers complained asked for money.
UAE residents have many options to sell their items, whether they are decluttering or moving out, from dubizzle.com to Facebook groups to flea markets. But what happens if an item won’t sell or is unusable? The last thing people want to do is pay to get rid of their rubbish. Here we outline the options available.
Use your time at home to sort your clutter
As part of precautionary measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, the UAE government has urged people to stay at home unless “absolutely necessary”.
While it is a good time to sort through cupboards and drawers, it is advisable to avoid contact with others. Therefore, use this time to decide what you want to discard at a later date.
Mr Khan says Take My Junk has taken measures to ensure its employees and customers are protected, such as having their workers wear gloves. Some residential buildings have asked staff to have their temperature taken before entering.
Follow the recommended guidance from authorities, while taking quarantining as an opportunity to organise and eventually clear unnecessary junk.
The services that will take your items for free
Sharjah residents can make use of Bee’ah’s “You Call We Haul” free service to dispose of bulky waste. It accepts items such as electronics and furniture, but they must be disassembled and moved to the ground floor for pickup if you’re in an apartment. The service does not accept construction materials.
Mr Khan insists that Take My Junk does not charge to remove items. They take anything from the home or office that is “usable”, including e-waste and furniture, but not garden waste.
“If people do want to give a tip, they give a tip, but we don’t demand money,” he says.
Still, Take My Junk’s model has shifted from its early days. It no longer donates items to the needy, for example. Mr Khan says the company used to donate sofas, “but we’ve delivered so many sofas that there are no camps now that don’t have sofas”.
“We’re not a charity. We don’t claim to be a charity,” Mr Khan adds.
Take My Junk is a business, which means overhead costs need to be covered. The costs for the company with 200 employees, 29 lorries and a 100,000 square-foot warehouse, doing an average of 250 to 300 pickups per day, come to around Dh600,000. The revenue from selling unwanted items comes to “the same”, Mr Khan says.
The company used to sell about 80 per cent of collected items and 20 per cent ended up in the landfill. Landfill charges in Ajman went up from Dh210 a tonne to Dh250 in January, prompting Take My Junk to invest in crushing and shredding machines that have reduced the percentage that goes to the dump to 8 per cent.
“Landfill charges have gone up all over the country,” Mr Khan says. “Because of that, companies are forced to send less stuff to the landfill, which is what the environment needs.”
Take My Junk reuses 1,200 tonnes a month by repairing, refurbishing or recycling items such as broken vacuum cleaners and rusted bicycles. It gives about 50 tonnes of wood a month to Union Paper Mills, which uses the material as fuel to power its factories. About 75 tonnes ends up in the landfill.
While less waste in landfills is what the environment needs, junk removal companies that don’t have the volumes to offset costs either pass on the price to customers or they cannot survive.
Beware of 'free' removal services that charge
One copycat company called Take My Junk Removal, formally registered as Nadim Bin Khadim Furniture Trading, advertises its “free of cost” services online. But Tanveer Hussein, the co-owner, says they will charge depending on the type of item. “If it is garbage and we have to throw it”, the company charges Dh100 to Dh150, he says.
The company is small – with eight employees, three trucks and a Deira store that sells household items – and Mr Hussein sees it as a paid disposal service.
Meanwhile, Khuram Rana, the owner of Junk Removals, says he started his company two years ago and was not charging customers. But the company, which employed nine people and did three to four pickups a day, went out of business in January. “Sometimes we got the good things and sometimes we got the garbage, so it was balanced,” Mr Rana says. “We were not getting the good stuff anymore. They were just calling us for the garbage and we’re not working for the garbage.”
You can choose to pay to remove your waste
Facility management companies, such as Imdaad, charge for the removal of unwanted or bulky waste. A spokesperson said the charges range from Dh300 to Dh600.
The discarded items either end up in the Dubai Municipality landfill or are recycled through Imdaad’s “recycling partners”. The company covers many of the communities owned by the main developers, such as Emaar, Nakheel, Dubai Properties and Damac. The main advantage is they are not selective with what they will take or not take.
Another way to get rid of unwanted items is to offer them on the FreeCycle Facebook groups. FreeCycle is a movement of people who give and receive stuff for free. Gina Dillon, an American who moved to Abu Dhabi eight years ago, started FreeCycle Abu Dhabi (original) in 2014 and FreeCycle Dubai in 2017.
She started the groups when she noticed many expatriates throwing perfectly usable items in the bin. “There is a lot of stuff that’s going in landfills that doesn’t need to,” says Ms Dillon, 54.
The Abu Dhabi group has around 67,000 members, while the less active Dubai group has about 4,600 members. People give away a variety of things, including baby strollers, car seats, mattresses, beds, household items, clothes and computers. Ms Dillon says FreeCycle is “more community-focused” when compared to junk removal services.
“For the most part people try to pass on things that are in good condition,” she says. “Maybe they tried to sell it and it didn’t sell or maybe they just don’t want to hassle with the sell. They can post it and someone will pop in and pick it up. That happens pretty easily and quickly.”
Due to the UAE’s directive to stay home to control the spread of Covid-19, the group has now limited postings to “essential items only such as food, hygiene and diapers”, according to a post Monday morning. All other listings will be deleted for the time being.
Give items to charity
The Emirates Red Crescent Authority has a programme called “Share Our Blessing”. The project, which collects used furniture from residents and distributes it to needy families, is only available in Abu Dhabi.
Since 2017, E-movers Abu Dhabi has partnered with the authority to pick up clothes and furniture from donors for free. Chirantan Joshi, managing director of E-movers, says people can send photographs of the items on WhatsApp. Emirates Red Crescent then decides whether it is worth donating or not.
Alternatively, E-movers will help customers “dump it to the municipality through the legal channels”, but there is a charge by the truckload based on volume.
Above all, be mindful that sometimes “one man’s junk is another’s treasure”, as the adage goes. But sometimes one man’s junk is just that, so choose the most environmentally-friendly, community-focused and cost-effective way to get rid of it.