In Sweden, a shopping mall entirely dedicated to second-hand goods

A dozen hands are busy sorting screens, books and other toys: in Eskilstuna, a Swedish industrial town undergoing ecological reconversion, the recycling of second-hand products takes on another dimension with an entire shopping centre dedicated to second-hand objects, consisting of thirteen shops.

In the working-class city an hour’s train ride from Stockholm, this 5,000-square-metre centre called “ReTuna” is the image of a city that turned to ecology as early as the 1990s to reinvent itself.

Designated “the world’s first shopping centre entirely for repaired, recycled and restored products” by the Guinness Book of Records 2020, ReTuna, owned by the municipality and employing between 50 and 65 people, was inaugurated in 2015.

Still far from the mastodons of classic mass consumption, the complex still attracts 250,000 to 300,000 visitors every year, with an increasingly “mainstream” profile, according to Anna Bergström, who was in charge of the complex until the beginning of the year.

On two floors, between computer equipment shop, bookstore, children’s toy shop or furniture shop, “you can do all the shopping you usually do in an ordinary shop”, says the manager, showing the colourful signs where the light characteristic smell of worn objects reigns.

In addition to shopping, ReTuna offers a one-year advanced training course in “recycle design”, the design of recycled products.

The shame of the new

In the land of “köpskam” (shame to buy new), a cousin of the equally eco-friendly “flygskam” (shame to fly), second hand becomes second nature. The Nordic country already has a long tradition of second-hand shops, but ReTuna is the symbol of this.

If it is not free of contradictions, with its giants in low-cost clothing (H&M) and furniture kits (Ikea), Sweden intends to be an ecological model for the world and become one of the first carbon neutral nations by 2045.

Eskilstuna wants to capture more CO2 than it emits and to be independent of fossil fuels by the end of the year. With a state-of-the-art sorting centre, the city already recycles or transforms all its waste into energy.

Weaknesses behind the “green” window.

But behind this showcase, the green city also hides its weaknesses, starting with the still omnipresent place of the car, on the roads, along the pavements, in the car parks…including the one in ReTuna.

Although the city centre buses already run on biogas, “there is still a lot to be done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” admits the mayor, who has been elected ten years ago. Unemployment, which is higher than the national average, has not fallen significantly in recent years either.

The city – home to Volvo’s construction equipment division and the Finnish stainless steel giant Outokumpu – adopted a “2020 climate plan” in 2012 to become greenhouse gas neutral, and in 2016 it added a list of “50 environmental promises”, ranging from the development of renewable energies to the development of cycle paths.

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