World’s First Recycling Mall – in Sweden

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“Recycling shopping’s beautiful new face,” wrote CNN about Re-tuna, the Swedish mall in Eskiltuna where everything sold are secondhand products. “The world’s recycling capital,” according to the Guardian. “Revolutionizing shopping in a climate-smart way,” said the Green Furniture Concept. A video created by the World Economic Forum about the center has been viewed more than 25 million times on Facebook. Read more about world’s first recycling mall – in Sweden

ReTuna shopping mall is a two-story complex of secondhand stores on the outskirts of Eskiltuna, a small riverside city 70 miles west of Stockholm. In 14 specialist shops covering everything from clothes to DIY tools, everything for sale is recycled.

World’s First Recycling Mall – in Sweden
The items sorted out for resale are almost like new, so why should customers bother to buy new stuff?

Related: Norway’s Successful Plastic and Metal Recycling System

Visitors from over 28 different contries
Center manager Anna Bergström has welcomed visitors from 28 different countries and over 200 Swedish municipalities who wanted to know how to do the same. The mall opened its doors on August 28, 2015 and can in a few days celebrate its fourth birthday. It is located next to the city’s recycling center. The mall’s depot, called “Returen”, consists of containers where visitors can drop off reusable furniture, toys, clothes, electronic devices and decorative items.

 

Almost like new
The items sorted out for resale are almost like new, so why should customers bother to buy new stuff? For manager Anna Bergström, the mission is to bring secondhand shopping into the mainstream. ReTuna is set up in a warehouse which used to house trucks for a logistics company. The mall itself reminds us of an IKEA outlet, spacious and appealing, where interior as well as decorations are made from recycled materials. It was set up by Eskilstuna’s local government in 2015.

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World’s First Recycling Mall – in Sweden
ReTuna Café

World’s First Recycling Mall – in Sweden
Eskiltuna is a city with 70,000 inhabitants and 400 years of industrial history, an hour and a half journey from Stockholm. In an effort to survive industrial death, the city has invested heavily in a new environmentally friendly direction, in which ReTuna is just one of the initiatives. In the mall, there is even a coffee shop, Returama, and gift-wrapping service.

After the items returned are sorted from the depot “Returen”, they are distributed to the recycling shops where they have a second culling. The shop staff choose what they want to repair, convert, refine or fix up. The materials are then ultimately given a new life and ready for sale.

World’s First Recycling Mall – in Sweden
Center manager Anna Bergström has welcomed visitors from 28 different countries and over 200 Swedish municipalities who wanted to know how to do the same

Supporting sustainability
Since the 1980s, Sweden has had a reputation for supporting sustainability. More than 99 percent of ordinary household waste in the country is recycled (although 50 percent of that is burned for energy). In recent years, there’s been a boom in demand for organic products and a resurgence in urban city gardening. The country has passed legislation compelling it to become a net zero greenhouse gas emitter by 2045.

Related: Climate-Smart Airports in Sweden

The mall is beautifully free of flashy music and advertising posters, and the exhibition dolls pose in a way no one has seen since the 1960’s. And it seems like the concept is working. In 2018, ReTuna had SEK 11.7 million (USD 1,22 mill) in sales for recycled products.

Fighting rising consumption
ReTuna is designed to help tackle rising consumption on a local level, promoting Eskilstuna as a “green role model” for other Swedish cities. The goal is to enhance the experience of shopping for secondhand goods by collecting niche stores under one roof.  The shops inside are run as businesses rather than charities, and each pays a combined charge of rent and business rates. The building is owned by the municipality and the average monthly rent for one shop is SEK 1,400 (USD 146).

When you sign a contract, you also promise to keep the waste at zero. It doesn’t always happen, but that’s the aim.

World’s First Recycling Mall – in Sweden
The mall reminds us of an IKEA outlet, spacious and appealing, where interior as well as decorations are made from recycled materials

The mall has also played a role in generating employment for immigrants seeking their first taste of the Swedish labor market. Many of the stores use a national program which subsidizes the salaries of newly settled residents for up to two years. It also offers adult education courses focused on design-based recycling.

Shops for almost everyone
Among the shops we spotted were a sports shop stuffed with skis and (slightly scuffed) sledges, a bookshop, a DIY store, a kids’ shop bursting with toys (a little faded), a homeware specialist and even a pet accessory shop. The center is competing with regular shopping malls and is thus tied to standard business hours.

The storage hall at ReTuna is reminiscent of a scene from the “Toy-story” films. Grandfather clocks, chandeliers, board games, globes and saucers in perfect harmony piled high in cages along the walls and in heaps in the middle of the floor.

Not just a marketplace
However, ReTuna is more than just a marketplace. By organizing events, workshops, lectures and theme days, it aims to be a public educator, focusing on sustainability. The Eskiltuna High School conducts its one-year education program “Recycle Design – Återbruk” in the premises.

World’s First Recycling Mall – in Sweden, written by Tor Kjolberg

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