Shoppers in the Swedish city of Eskilstuna are flocking to ReTuna — just like a regular mall, but dedicated entirely to repaired and up-cycled products.
Eskilstuna in Sweden is home to the world’s first climate-smart recycling mall
ReTuna Återbruksgalleria is the world’s first recycling mall, revolutionising shopping in a climate-smart way. Old items are given a new lease of life through repair and upcycling. Everything sold there is either recycled, up-cycled or repurposed, or else it has been organically or sustainably produced. Via Rob Greenfield
It works: 2016 ReTuna Återbruksgalleria had SEK 8.1 million in sales for recycled goods
The ReTuna Återbruksgalleria first opened its doors in August 2015. Located next to the Retuna Återvinningscentral recycling center at Folkestaleden 7 in Eskilstuna, 100 kilometres west of Stockholm, it is easy for visitors to sort materials they are discarding into the containers provided and then drop off reusable toys, furniture, clothes, decorative items, and electronic devices in the mall’s depot, called “Returen”.
It is in this depot that staff from AMA (Eskilstuna Municipality’s resource unit for activity, motivation and work) perform an initial culling of what is usable and what is not. Those items are then distributed to the recycling shops within the mall. The shop staff then perform a second culling, where they choose what they want to repair, fix up, convert, refine – and ultimately sell. It is in this way that the materials are given a new lease of life.
And the business concept seems to be working: In 2016, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria had SEK 8.1 million ($952,000/808,000/£713,400) in sales for recycled products.
But, say those behind the idea, ReTuna is more than just a marketplace. It also aims to be a public educator. ReTuna organises events, workshops, lectures, theme days, and more — all with a focus on sustainability.
Turning into profit, subsidies discontinued
ReTuna is owned by the municipality of Eskilstuna. In 2015, SEK 19.5 million (EUR 1.8 million) was invested in the project, partly to subsidise the store managers. Since 2018, ReTuna has been breaking even and the subsidies have been discontinued. Turnover grows by 30 percent every year, last year 11.7 million kroner (1.1 million euro) was sold. Growth must continue in order to make the project profitable for all retailers. ‘So far, I have reinvested all the turnover in the shop’, says Maria Larsson (28), who now runs the plant shop Ecoflor for two and a half years and works 60 to 80 hours a week. I depend on my fiancée to make ends meet. She hopes to make a profit next year. We have more and more visitors in the department store, but there are still more local residents to come.
Fourteen men and women work in the warehouse to sort all incoming products. There are areas for toys, clothing, garden materials, equipment, sports equipment, furniture, prams and much more. Every morning at half past nine the store managers can choose from the new proceeds what they want to sell in their shop. They never argue about the most beautiful things, says Amjad, who runs ReCompute-IT. Because every shop has its own profile.There is a shop for antique furniture, a shop for newer, white-painted furniture, for children’s clothes, for adult fashion, there is a plant and pot shop (the plants are not second-hand, of course, but ‘sustainably cultivated’), a bicycle shop, a bookshop, a pet shop. The owners rent the rooms for a modest fee.
Who runs it and whose idea was it?
ReTuna Återbruksgalleria and Retuna Återvinningscentral are run by the municipality-owned company Eskilstuna Energi och Miljö (EEM).
EMM is a municipal company tasked with running competitive organisations in the energy and environmental sector. EEM aims to deliver optimal benefit to customers and residents — with minimal impact on the environment.
The goal is to serve as a role model and source of inspiration in relation to energy and the environment, and to create sustainable societal benefit for current and future generations.
EEM works within six business areas: Electrical Grid, Electricity Market, Water & Sanitation, Recycling, Energy, and Marketing & Sales. ReTuna Återbruksgalleria is part of business area Recycling.
Where does the idea come from?
The Eskilstuna Municipality strives to be a green role model. In its environment-related development work, the idea came about to open a mall that had “regular” shops, but with a reused and up-cycled range of products. The concept would attract a broad target group, and spread knowledge about sustainability and circular economy.
Local government politicians decided to turn the idea into reality, and construction of the project began in August 2014. ReTuna Återbruksgalleria opened its doors to the public on August 28, 2015.
In addition to offering sustainable shopping and serving as a public educator in relation to environmental issues, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria has generated over 50 new jobs. The mall has become international news – documentary filmmakers, journalists and curious tourists from around the world have visited ReTuna Återbruksgalleria. The concept is now spreading.
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