Sweden is stepping up its recycling game. A Swedish municipality recently opened up what could be the world’s very first shopping mall dedicated to recycled, reused, and repaired goods.
The new mall, ReTuna Recycling Galleria, is in the city of Eskilstuna, Sweden. And it’s a one-stop-shop for sustainable products. The mall boasts over a dozen different stores focusing on everything from reused household goods to refurbished electronics—as well a restaurant, educational center, conference center, and an exhibition.
Here’s where Eskilstuna’s upcycled shopping mall separates itself from a brick-and-mortar Etsy or a souped-up swap-meet: The Recycling Galleria also has a recycling depot incorporated right into the mall. Customers can drop off unwanted household goods for recycling. Staff from the municipality sorts the donations, and redistributes what can be reused, upcycled, and repaired to different stores in the mall. What can’t be reused by the stores are sent off to a local recycling center for further reuse.
Anna Bergström, center manager ReTuna Recycling Galleria, describes the experience like this: (Note: This quote was machine-translated from Swedish to English by Google, so I cleaned it up to make it more readable.)
“Our idea is that the customer comes here and leaves, for example, some furniture and clothing they got tired of or have no use for anymore. Then you take a lap at the mall. Maybe you find a new jacket and a new frame for that photograph of your grandfather. Then you eat an organic lunch in our restaurant and gather strength to go for another lap around the mall where you find new flowers for the garden and a new lamp for the living room. When you leave here, you should feel that you did something good for the environment.”
The Recycling Galleria is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too approach to resource reduction. Traditional shopping malls are pretty much a Vegas buffet of mass consumerism where you can glut yourself on cheap crap, sale items, and Orange Julius smoothies. But when your local shopping mall is really a cleverly disguised recycling center, mall-goers still get to shop ’til they drop. They just get to do it sustainably, because they’re reusing goods instead of buying brand new ones. And that, folks, is how you make buying stuff and conserving resources happy bedfellows.
“It’s important for us that the tenants are business-like, that they want to earn money as much as they want to save the planet,” Bergström said. “Therefore, the shopping mall is commercially-driven.”
The new mall is just one of a few steps the people of Sweden are taking to institutionalize reuse as an antidote to throwaway culture. This year, the Swedish government enacted a law that gives citizens a tax break, of sorts, on repairs. The law cut the Value Added Tax (or VAT) on the repair of bicycles, clothes, and shoes by half and made the labor cost of repairing appliances partially tax deductible.
Per Bouland, Sweden’s Minister of Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs thinks repair-friendly initiatives won’t just help the environment—they will create jobs: “Repairing your goods is quite labor intense as compared to production. So we believe if consumption behavior is altered, this can lead to a boost in the employment and the labor market,” he said.
And that’s been the case at ReTuna Recycling Galleria. The new mall created 50 jobs. Of course, it’s a new business model, so some stores have struggled to turn a profit. But even with the rough edges, the mall is still doing better than expected, reports Leena ElDeeb of Progrss. In fact, it gets between 600-700 customers every day and is open 7 days a week.
Hopefully, the mall will continue to do well. Because it’s a concept that we’d love to see spread. Maybe, the world’s second mall for recycled goods will be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.