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Name: ReTuna Aterbruksgalleria

The Place:  Somewhere unpronounceable in Sweden.

Just try for me: Eskilstuna

The Story: Have you ever been to a tip?

Yes, most recently: your house: No, I mean a rubbish tip.

Oh. Yes I have: So you are familiar with the scene: large boxes full of both recyclable and non-recyclable waste. You drive in, the children try to get out, you lock them in, you chuck the stuff in the containers and drive off again. Breathing a sigh of relief that the chore is over again.

That’s pretty much it: And as you leave you see the pile of stuff that is always there having been taken out by the recycling centre staff as they can’t quite bear to just see it crushed up. Children’s bikes that would be perfectly roadworthy after a once over with a spanner, chairs which just need a wonky leg banging in, tables at which one can still eat dinner but could do with a lick of paint, books with slightly torn covers and so on and so on.

Sad but true: I’ll now take you to a place where you can do your normal recycling and then take the things that you know have the potential to have a careful second owner to be assessed at another part of the same site. Leaving you to go home with a clear conscience knowing that someone with the right skills will re-upholster that scraggy armchair and make it beautiful again.

It’s all about the upcycling, folks

You fascinate me strangely. Go on: From there, if it makes the grade, it is then passed on to the relevant units within a mall of shops, also on-site, which does a second sort out and finally upcycles, repaints, repairs and ultimately hopefully resells.

And that’s ReTuna? Yessir.

Love. It: It claims to be the world’s first recycling mall and everything sold in it is either recycled or sustainably produced. But more than that, it also runs an on-site, year-long course on sustainable design, offers workshops, events and themed days.

You’re spoiling us: And if that wasn’t enough, there is the obligatory café – Café Returama.

Recycled meatballs? Very funny. No.

And how long has this marvellous enterprise been in existence? Local councillors  in Eskilstuna had the idea in 2014, it actually opened in 2015, and by 2017 the mall was already recording sales of SEK 10million which is just under £900k.

Tidy: In addition, 50 jobs had been created and the good people of Eskilstuna had a nice fuzzy feeling inside.

But who actually runs it? Well, the local authority really. They have a municipal company called Eskilstuna Energi och Miljo (EEM), which is basically charged with creating commercially viable, environmental initiatives while simultaneously being a role model in relation to energy and sustainability.

That’s actually quite tough you know: Tell me about it. People usually expect the worthy environmental stuff not to make any money but mall manager Anna Bergstrom is a lady who comes with a background in commercial shopping malls and brand design. She is also the person who copes with the international interest shown in this project.

Wait, what? You mean we’re not the first people to discover it: Not this time. The world and his wife, almost literally, have beaten a path to this place since it opened.

Darn. So how many units does this mall actually have? According to Ms Bergstrom the site consists of 11 permanent shops, three pop-ups, one restaurant, one education suite, and one conference centre.

Recycling: it doesn’t have to be boring

And does she have an impatient line of sparky young design types banging on her door shouting “Let us look through your rubbish”. Actually yes, she does although she is pretty happy with the current mix and has no immediate plans to change. But she isn’t a pushover. First of all a potential tenant needs to write a comprehensive business plan.

What’s she looking for here? A mix of professionalism, proper calculations for reaching a profit, and the sustainable angle. But it has to be the right idea – three units doing up bikes is too many. People are initially drawn in by the wide mix of products available and the mix must remain invigorating.

I bet she’d love to expand: Nej (that’s Swedish for no). You forget that this is a council-driven initiative. What goes on tour in Eskilstuna, stays in Eskilstuna. But she is pretty confident that an awful lot of other places in Sweden and elsewhere would like to have something similar. In her own words “some are planning, some are doing pre-studies, some are just dreaming”.

If you paint it, people will buy it.

You know what, this will be a money issue: Literally, a genius.

How much did the council stump up then? SEK 80 million.

Ummm: Don’t bother trying. It’s nearly £7 million and that’s to build both the recycling centre and the mall of units.

I bet the local charity shops are hopping mad though: Don’t be daft. Sadly there is easily enough throwing away that goes on (yes, even in Scandinavia) to stock everyone’s thrift shelves for the foreseeable and then some.

Imagine – one day the words ReTuna Aterbruksgalleria will be tripping off everyone’s tongue: For once I think you might just be right.

 

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