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Leon Kaye headshot

Sweden Shakes Up Shopping With a Mall for Reclaimed Goods

By Leon Kaye

Sweden has a reputation for having one of the best recycling rates worldwide, so it should not be surprising that the Nordic country is home to the world's first mall that only sells recycled, upcycled and repaired goods. ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, which is about 75 miles west of Stockholm, opened in August 2015 in the city of Eskilstuna.

Its name may sound like the latest Ikea light fixture or nightstand, but ReTuna’s founders want this center to challenge the norms of retail. Suggesting that ReTuna is not only the first shopping center to sell recycled and reclaimed goods in Sweden, but also in the world, the goal of the complex is to “achieve more with what we already have.”

Functioning as part recycling depot, part shopping experience and part education center, ReTuna features 15 stores, a restaurant and a conference facilities. The mall includes retail shops for home decor and furniture, refurbished computers and electronics, housewares, sporting goods, and outdoor plants.

Several of these stores also function as “do-it-yourself” showrooms, where customers can learn tasks such as how to repair household items or make their own lamps. DIY-ers and sustainable living mavens can also take a break in ReTuna’s café, which offers organic and sustainable fare.

The mall is a partnership between the municipal government, nonprofits and local businesses. And its staff also maintains a busy community-oriented calendar.

ReTuna’s management is keen to expand and is now seeking more designers, a furniture upholsterer and someone who can run an ecologically-minded salon or beauty products store. The center is also open to ideas for businesses that can contribute to the local sharing economy, with one example being a tool-sharing business. Such entrepreneurs must heed ReTuna’s ethos: “Sustainability is not about to hold back and live less, but to achieve more with the resources we already have.”

According to the shopping center’s manager, the customer experience at ReTuna is more than about shopping with an ecological conscience. The idea is that visitors show up, bringing items such as furniture or clothing that are no longer needed. A “drive-thru” recycling depot run by a local social enterprise accepts those items, and then local workers sort through them and decide what can be distributed to stores within the mall.

Those same shoppers can then browse through the stores, where they may find something for the living room, or a new jacket, and perhaps score some flowers for the garden as well. In addition, visitors can enroll in a one-year Design-Recycle-Reuse program. ReTuna also offers study visits during which attendees can learn about the inner workings of the mall. These visits cost about $136 and are held once a week.

ReTuna endured its share of growing pains, and its general manager acknowledged in one interview that some stores are struggling to make a profit. Of course, one challenge the shopping center faces is that no one else has attempted such a business model, which makes for a huge learning curve.

But Eskilstuna's 67,000 residents seem more and more open to the idea of buying repurposed and refurbished goods, which is inspiring ReTuna to set an even bigger goal: to position this town as a global destination that will showcase what sustainable living and the circular economy are all about.

Image credits: ReTuna

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye