The first town to host a shopping mall entirely dedicated to recycling, Eskilstuna rolls out a plethora of green initiatives. The former industrial powerhouse has its sights set on being the greenest town in the world.
The circular economy doesn’t just give a second lease of life to objects, it can also give a second chance to an industrial town with a glorious past.
An hour by train from Stockholm, the former industrial town of Eskilstuna has an unemployment rate that is twice the national average. The journalist Ammar Kalia gives a good description of the atmosphere in this Swedish town of 100,000 inhabitants that has been in decline since the 1970s: "Far from the Scandinavian stereotype of glossy modernity, Eskilstuna’s wide-paved, near-deserted grey streets are populated by kitsch 1980s pizzerias, workers’ cafes and gloomy pubs [...]."
In order to stop this seemingly inexorable decline the town adopted a radical strategy: to make Eskilstuna the greenest place on the planet, thanks in particular to recycling. The circular economy doesn’t just give a second lease of life to objects, it can also give a second chance to an industrial town with a glorious past.
Since 2012, Eskilstuna has rolled out a plethora of green initiatives. For example, public transport uses biogas and electricity, and the town uses low-carbon combined heat and power plants, which use the thermal energy from electricity production to heat water. Residents sort their waste into seven multicolored categories at home – green for food, pink for textiles, grey for metal, yellow for paper, blue for newspaper, orange for plastic and black for the rest..
The first 100% recycling shopping mallSince 2015, they can also drop off their unwanted items in containers at ReTuna, a large 5,000 m² shopping center where everything on the shelves is repaired, reused, recycled, upcycled, or produced sustainably.
Eskilstuna is the first city in the world to have hosted a shopping mall entirely dedicated to recycling and recovery. Managed by a municipal company ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, it was opened in 2015, a 20-minute drive from the city center, in a warehouse built in the middle of a field. The mall has dozens of eco-friendly shops - offering furniture, toys, clothes, electronics, etc. – as well as a café, restaurant, and conference center...
People come in and drop off things they want to get rid of. The objects are sorted by a team of employees undergoing skills training, who select what is usable, then distributed to the shop managers, who choose what they want to repair or transform and any materials they can recover. ReTuna receives around 700 visitors a day - journalists, students and curious tourists come from all over the world to stroll around it.
Anything that can’t be recovered and sold at ReTuna is routed to a sorting center near the mall, where five employees process 20,000 metric tons of waste a year using an automated sorting system. Food waste is composted and recovered as biogas that powers the town’s buses.
Despite some initial resistance to change, both the launch of the recycling system and ReTuna have been a success. It has helped to revitalize Eskilstuna and created 50 jobs, raised awareness of the circular economy for a whole population and made a town hit by unemployment a model for the nation and even the world.
CREDIT: Main picture © Getty Images