When coming up with good examples of sustainable action, a big shopping mall isn't usually the first setting that springs to mind. But one shopping center in Sweden is bucking the trend of mindless consumption. Pay a visit to the ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, and instead of mass-produced products, you'll find pretty much everything sourced from recycled materials.
Making old stuff brand new
Sweden is famously committed to its recycling policy. Less than 1% of Swedish waste goes to landfills. And even this landfill waste is burned to generate energy. In fact, the country made headlines in the last couple of years when they completely ran out of garbage. So it's not at all surprising that the progressive Scandinavian nation would be the setting for a project like this.
It's an impressive initiative. The ReTuna Återbruksgalleria (recycling mall) is named for its location in the town of Eskilstuna, not far from Stockholm. It contains 14 stores, an exhibition area, an educational program about recycling and even a restaurant.
The mall is located right next to a recycling center, so that visitors can drop off their recycling and buy "new" stuff in the same trip. The stores inside take much of their stock from repurposed or "up-cycled" products made from what people drop off next door. The few non-recycled products on offer are required to use sustainable and eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes.
ReTuning the linear economy
Though the municipality owns the mall, the various businesses inside are privately owned, meaning around 50 new jobs (from retail to repair work, management to catering), and a boost to local business. The ReTuna is clearly a boon for Eskilstuna.
But aside from its individual merits, it is also an interesting case-study in how we can reinvent our economies to bring them more in tune with ecology and the world they are part of. The philosophy behind the ReTuna doesn't have to remain in Sweden. We only need to think conscientiously about waste in our personal lives and communities.
Do our models of production and disposal lead down a linear path to waste? How can we make them more circular. In other words, how to channel waste materials back into the economy? The ReTuna mall offers one example. There are countless others to be found in our daily lives. Part of living in the era of the human planet is learning how to build economies that use our resources wisely.