business circular economy waste

The world’s first mall for recycled goods

Last week I wrote about the Edinburgh Remakery, and how they are trying to foster a culture of repair. It’s one of the most shared posts I’ve ever written, and there’s clearly a real interest in this whole idea. Lots of you have been in touch to share similar projects, including this one from Sweden.

ReTuna Återbruksgalleria is a mall dedicated entirely to repaired and upcycled goods. It combines a traditional municipal recycling centre with a shopping centre, so that people can drop off goods that they no longer need, and then browse for something new – perhaps stopping off at the cafe in between. It’s the first mall of its kind in Sweden, and as far as they know, the first in the world.

Staff at the recycling depot intercept and sort incoming goods as they are dropped off, putting aside those that can be repaired or refurbished. They are then passed on to workshops to be renovated and sold on in one of the 14 shops in the shopping centre. There are specialist outlets for furniture, computers and audio equipment, clothes, toys, bikes, gardening tools, and building materials. Everything for sale in these stores is secondhand.

The centre also includes a cafe/restaurant with lots of organic options, an exhibition area, conference facilities and a training college for studying recycling. And if you’re wondering about the name, the ‘tuna’ is short for Eskilstuna, the town where you will find this intriguing place.

There are so many good things about this project. Residents can get rid of unwanted stuff, same as they would anywhere else. But rather than burdening local government with that disposal, it turns that waste into an opportunity. Goods are diverted from the waste stream and put back into circulation, saving the materials and embodied energy. 50 new jobs were created in repair and retail. The centre itself is operated by the municipality, but the shops are private businesses and social enterprises, so it creates space for start-ups and local artisans.

It’s a stark contrast to my local recycling centre, which is little more than a loop of road with skips, and you drive around and drop off your stuff in the relevant dump – fridges here, rubble there, carpets over there. It is taken away and most of it is recycled eventually, but in every skip there’s a huge amount of reusable material. There are mountains of appliances that could be repaired, and bikes that just need a little maintenance, but they are all treated as scrap. I’ve seen guitars in the scrap wood bin, destined to be plywood when all they needed was new strings and a polish. Imagine if those items were rescued and given a new life. Every town recycling centre could have a number of workshops and retail points on site, or could partner with shops nearby.

ReTuna Återbruksgalleria is a living demonstration of the circular economy, a very practical way of unlocking the value in what we throw away, and it’s a project we could all learn from. Eskilstuna got there first, but perhaps one day you’ll find something very similar in your own town.

84 comments

    1. No persuation was necessary. The mall is owned by the local municipal recycling plant and was created entirely for this purpose.

    2. Everyone is suppose to be so into recycling but in the US it’s just about impossible to find a shoemaker.. Thumbs up to this mall in Sweden!

  1. A question we must ask first is why did all the little repair shops in this country go out of business during the last 40 years. Then, what has changed, if anything, that will induce enough people to pay enough money for repaired / recycled items to keep someone in business…especially when so much good hardware is available for so little money in the shops .

    1. My father was an electrician, who had MS. As the disease progressed he opened a repair shop. In the late 60’s & 70’s manufacturing companies committed to ‘planned obsolescence’ and decided to make repair less attractive. The cost of parts & labor compared to the cost of a new product often made it more expensive to repair. Appliances were constructed in solid plastic cases. You had to break them to get into them. Many warranties were voided if a person tried a DIY repair. People had to go to an approved specialist, who encouraged customers to buy new and throw away the old. It was a marketing strategy aimed at driving consumption. So that’s how we evolved into throw away societies.

      1. I am so delighted to read this ,it makes me happy. I have wanted something like this to happen for years. Thanks to Sweden for using their initiative . Lets hope the rest of the world wakes up soon aye. NZ. Kiwi girl.

      2. I’ve heard about planned obsolescence but thought it was some sort of conspiracy theory. Absolutely shocking 😦

  2. One big problem is the falling cost of imported goods, in combination with rising wages in the West. By the time we’ve paid for a couple of hours of someone’s time, it just isn’t worth fixing a lot of things. It would be cheaper to buy a new lamp or a watch, or a pair of shoes, than to fix the old ones.

    That’s one of the big reasons why repair shops have gone out of business, and why we can’t just put them back. We can, however, teach repair skills so that more people can fix their own things. And if people are confident that things can be maintained and repaired, they may buy fewer and better quality things in the first place, and then we have an important cultural change going on.

    1. Careful, sounds like you are saying cheaper goods and higher wages is a ‘big problem’. Living standards should be lower?

      1. Hi there, a thought-But are these ‘cheaper goods’ really cheap?
        Only comparatively-the folks producing them are earning a wage-but it’s only bcos their wages are sooo low that they can be afforded to be shipped about.
        And then there’s the whole ‘disposable’ mentality-cheap as acceptably creating landfill–I think ppl are waking up to mass consumption is gross on so many levels, other than habitual wastage & pointless. I’m heartened by folks recycling, repairing, refurbishing & saving up for quality to aim for.
        Higher wages.. in AU wages are plenty high-yet there’s a massive affordability crisis for home buying–!

    2. I don’t like malls becks they promote mass production + selfish spending on stuff most pple don’t need they just want them becos they are there…I would rather grab products from an op shop as I don’t trust stuff made these days… The quality of workmanship is better from the 50s …better stronger products made to last…. Not like a lot if things these days

  3. Two comments on this:

    1. I was only yesterday searching for TV retailers in the Hitchin area. I found there were far more offering repairs than offering to sell new. Presumably too much competition from the big companies like Currys, Comet and Argos.

    2. I know of at least one small step in the direction of the Swedish model you describe, although it does not go so far. The council recycling dump in Exmouth, south Devon, is similar to our local Luton one, but has additionally an area where any useable stuff left is offered for sale.

  4. This is a great idea. Buying these refurbished items are probably much cheaper than new.
    A member of our local recycling committee told me last night that most plastic bottles can only be recycled once or twice. Does that sound right?

    1. Yes, most forms of plastic get recycled as an inferior grade of plastic, and eventually end up incinerated or turned into something that can’t be recycled, like garden fleece. But there are more advanced recycling plants, and lots of different kinds of plastic, so it varies.

  5. I think this increadable than God someone is thinking.well done (we frow things away ??but where is away no such place)

  6. Reblogged this on Resilience 101 and commented:
    Every town needs this!

    I live just outside a rural township, where we have two charity-owned opportunity shops, a couple of for-profit salvage depots and a couple of antique stores. They are great for someone like me who likes to do all sorts of DIY, but there has got to be a market everywhere to supply already refurbished and/or repurposed items. I think this is a fabulous initiative!

  7. Time ago, we would never throw away a guitar for example….we put on new strings, gave it a new paint and donate it to one of our smaller cousins or neighbours who dreamt about having a guitar, and we got such a satisfaction about seeing the happy face or the passion developing trying to play this guitar…..now people trash items just because THEY dont need or use them anymore, as if the item at that moment looses completely its right to exist, or as if an item is only made just for one person to have belonged to!! I call this “excessif control and possessivity of existing stuf…” every item has his proper existence right, apart from the fact who bought it or who thaught to use it…it just exists from the moment someone crafted it, and this needs survival respect!

    1. Interesting. Japan has one of the most advanced cultures of reuse and recycling, and one of the reasons is that Japanese traditional religion has a certain veneration for things. It’s wrong to destroy or throw something away, and it honours the object to reuse it or gift it to someone else. It’s quite different from the ‘it’s mine and I’ll do what I like with it’ mentality that we have in Britain, and that allows us to casually discard things when we’re done with them.

      1. Yes that’s true and why RUDE Girl has embraced boro mending. RUDE Boy has three pairs of vintage Levis jeans and a pair of vintage Calvin Klein jeans that he bought from a charity shop many years ago. These are boro mended by me for love and out of respect.

  8. Reblogged this on Rude Record and commented:
    In Melbourne, Australia, the city of Melton where us RUDE Guys live, our State Government of Victoria has given the go ahead for the large expansion of a landfill. This landfill is set to take rubbish from all over Melbourne and its outer suburbs for the next 13 years.

    Australian TIP SHOPS at municipal Recycling Centres have a long long way to go. We could definitely learn something from the Tuna recycling model mall. It’s one type of mall us RUDE Guys would enjoy the window shopping.

  9. Amazing. We shop at TIP SHOPS in Australia. These are at recycling facilities. Stuff is being discarded and is sold ‘as is’. But a lot ends up just getting scrapped or dumped into landfill. Us RUDE Guys have reblogged this article. Thanks.

  10. I’m in Melbourne Australia and there’s a similar, but different thing at one of our local municipalities in the outer east of the city. Yarra Ranges Shire Council has a shop at their recycling centre. All of the stuff collected at their roadside hard rubbish collections is sorted and anything reusable is put in the shop for resale. They have furniture, building materials, sports equipment, toys….. etc, etc. It’s sold “as is”. Also they have a drop off facility available. You pay to drop of anything that is just rubbish but anything that can be reused/recycled/upcycled can be left for free so white goods, audiovisual equipment, computers etc can be left as well. It’s great. Oh and they also have a garden waste section where you can drop off your green waste. They then turn it into compost or mulch, which you can buy back. It’s brilliant. This facility is available to anyone, not just people who live in the municipality. Not quite at this level yet, but it’s a good start.

  11. This is an absolutely fantastic way to get young and old interested in repairing and upgrading old things – not just dumping goods filling places with discards. I volunteer in an op shop; it is amazing what comes in and what is then sold – some people use items for craft and/or art purposes. It is wonderful to be able to re-use other peoples ‘rubbish’ and make it somebody else’s treasure

  12. Wonderful read and a terrific project. In our ‘take, make, waste’ world it is so refreshing to see ‘closed loop’ thinking in action. It reminds me of the Cradle to Cradle approach articulated so well by McDonough & Braungart in their book of the same name. With one planet, clearly we can’t go on consuming unsustainably and projects such as this are are strong step in the right direction. Want hope for the planet – here it is…

  13. To repair or refurbish or to repurpose we must buy quality products. I am the Grand Daughter of a scrapman. He was also a blacksmith by trade and even apprenticed for a while under a very good tailor. Materials are worth while reclaiming and reusing, but if it is junky to start with then it is off to the dump. a good wool coat can be restyled or cutdown for a smaller person, metal can be melted and beaten into another useful object even plastic can be ground up and reused. I find the poor quality of garments that make thier way to our shores do not last. I have had garments that were suppose to be barains after a few washing be good for nothing, the materials not even fit for a cleaning cloth.

    The town I lived in had a cobbler who worked even on expensive running shoes but he was well over the age of retirement and was forced to quit due to health, he could find no one who would comed and apprentice in his shop and eventually take over. So sad.

    1. That’s a good point – things need to be made of a certain quality if they’re going to last. Repairability has to be designed in, ideally. That’s something to bear in mind when purchasing, and we should ask ourselves if the items we acquire will have a life after we’re done with them.

  14. Finally! Wonderful! Each city should have one! Waste not; want not! It creates jobs, recycles, is creative and even teaches! Very , very wise and great! Thumbs up!

  15. You grew up in Madagascar, did you by any chance know Michel Bastide from France, who grew up there as well?

  16. It’s a wonderful idea, people throw away so much stuff! I make art with recycled stuff, using broken chair legs to make lighthouses, bed slats to make houses, wire coat hangers as legs for birds, lampshades as skirts for dancers…l recycle to art anything l can put my hands on and it’s wonderful to see just how much people appreciate that.

  17. This is really good for people and land waste. Also it would be nice if schools could take part like this. .

  18. Fantastic initiative!
    Our company is RESCUED From Waste to Wonderful and this is exactly what our interior collection is about.
    We’re located in the Netherlands

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