Although various forms of second-hand goods and markets exist around the world, stereotypes about second-hand shopping are mostly unflattering. Second-hand products are often regarded to as inferior or less preferable to newer alternatives.
But our untamed production, consumption and waste patterns are pushing the earth to its brink by pushing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contributing to climate change. Despite some efforts made in recycling, a lot remains to be done. For instance, less than one percent of clothes worldwide are recycled, but the problem goes far beyond just clothing; over half of all consumer waste ends up in landfill. In the US alone that amounts to over 130 million tons of landfill waste each year.
Re-imagining the second-hand experience
An innovative venture in Sweden is making efforts to reduce waste and promote sustainable living through its world-first mall project selling second-hand goods. Since 2015, the ReTuna mall has reimagined the second-hand shopping experience by giving life and new homes to used products.
What began as a radical idea has now sparked a new wave of second-hand malls globally, offering hope in the fight against global waste.
The risks are paying off. (In 2018), the mall turnover passed 11 million Swedish kronor — over $1.1 million — and (I am) confident it will continue to grow in 2019.Anna Bergström, the shopping centre manager
The ReTuna mall is designed to look and function like other regular malls. It is fresh, clean and spacious, offering shoppers a wide variety of goods and all sorts of brands from the high-end likes of Michael Kors, Gucci or Apple electronics, through to more mainstream products. Every item is in good condition, but all the products are second-hand.
The mall is owned by the local municipality’s recycling department and collaborates with the recycling centre by saving new items from landfill every week. Items of potential value are divided among store owners and used for re-selling or ‘upcycled’ into new items. They also sell items that are organically or sustainably produced. Although the mall is publicly owned, 9 out of 11 of its stores are owned by private companies. A restaurant and conference centre have opened in the mall and it is looking to add a sustainable supermarket.
ReTuna is not only making impact in its host country Sweden but is reshaping views about second-hand products and inspiring similar projects internationally in Australia, California, Switzerland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.
Is it profitable?
Apparently using second-hand goods is not only good for the environment but profitable too. Buyers save money by getting great products for a fraction of the price. Sellers profit off items that may have ended up in landfills. Talk about a win-win-win!
“We want to show that it is possible to save the world and make money at the same time. This is an excellent concept that deserves to grow,” Bergström said.
How does the environment benefit?
Second-hand trading has tremendous positive impact on the environment. According to a report by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute and media company Schibsted, online trading of second-hand goods across their auction sites in 2018 prevented more than 20 million tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere. This equates to the annual carbon footprint of over 2.2 million Europeans.
“Na mumu dey go boutique”
Although a thriving second-hand market exists in most of the developing world, a lot can still be done to make the business more attractive to buyers and sellers. Approaches like ′upcycling′ that adds value and improves the conditions of the items will help make the products more appealing to a wider variety of people.
A popular statement used by second-hand traders in Nigerian pidgin English is “na mumu dey go boutique.” This implies that great value can be found in second-hand products at an affordable price and people do not need to pay premium prices for new items all the time.
As we encourage a shift from the current linear economy to a circular economy, second-hand products will continue to play a significant role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing environmental pollution.
With some creativity and innovation, and a commitment to reduce waste and embrace sustainability, we can make second-hand cool again!