Sometimes a new idea makes so much sense, it’s hard to understand why no one thought of it before. That’s the case with ReTuna, the shopping mall located in Eskilstuna, Sweden, that requires all its retailers to sell used and repurposed goods.
But ReTuna isn’t just a haven of thrift. The mall also acts as a community education hub and recycling center, where residents of the municipality can drop off their recycling and donations for stores to resell or use to create new items with an invigorated purpose.
The genius of this model is in its simplicity: retailers have a dedicated, on-site source of used materials to fuel their business. Residents have a place to take used items that would otherwise end up as waste. Together, the inhabitants of Eskilstuna are creating a closed-loop system that adds value to waste and prevents unnecessary use of virgin materials.
“We want to save the world, or be part of its rescue,” says Anna Bergström, ReTuna’s manager. Summing up the project’s purpose, Bergström notes that while Sweden has flea markets and second-hand shops, ReTuna is something completely different. “This is a shopping mall, just like any commercial shopping center, but with a totally different supplier.”
The idea came to life in 2012, after the municipality board of Eskilstuna decided the community needed a new recycling center. After conducting a pilot study, the board determined the new center wouldn’t just help reduce waste, it would also create jobs and increase knowledge of circular economies.
Offering an antidote to the model of ‘take, make, dispose’ foundational to most modern economies, ReTuna seeks to create a regenerative system built on long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, and recycling. All these ideas come directly from the circular economy playbook.
Thinking Differently: Embracing the Circular Economy
That concept has been gaining momentum since the 1970s, when it emerged from a number of different movements that looked carefully at living systems. Like these living systems, the circular economy processes nutrients and waste, so they can be returned to the cycle and used again. In practical terms, businesses operating within this framework minimize waste and energy leakages by slowing and closing the loops where materials and energy are lost. The model is regenerative and restorative by design—meaning…