Garage sales, flea markets and bric-a-brac: circular economy for all

Posted on 06 December 2017.

Instead of throwing away old things, why not make people happy by selling them for next to nothing? This eco-responsible approach has fostered the development of garage sales around the world, which is a new form of circular economy at citizen level.

"About 50,000 garage sales are organized in France every year and their number has really increased over the past ten years to meet demand." Olivier Nass, founder of the website, 2015

Long reserved for industries such as automotive or real estate, the second-hand market has expanded in France in recent years. A study carried out by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) and the Research Centre for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions (CRÉDOC) in 2014 found that 75% of French people had bought second-hand items at least once a year (60% had done so ten years earlier). 54% of French people said they preferred to use a repair man for their appliances or electronics rather than buying new, while 38% of them said they had recovered things in the street.

Every year, 50,000 garage sales and 18 million users on

The website dedicated to the sale of second-hand items in France, has become the fourth most visited website in the country and 18 million French people say that they have already sold second-hand items on the website launched in 2006. "We have given 81% of buyers access to items they could not afford to buy new" , said Antoine Jouteau, CEO of in March last year in an interview by the L’Alsace newspaper.
However, without realizing it, the French have long been experimenting with an informal and IRL version of this famous website in the form of garage sales, flea markets, and bric-a-brac. "About 50,000 garage sales are organized every year in France and their number has really increased over the past ten years to meet demand", said Olivier Nass, founder of the website, in an interview by 20 Minutes in 2015. This represents an average of 136 garage sales held every day country-wide. The most famous of them and incidentally the largest in Europe, the Braderie de Lille, also broke the records in 2015 with no less than 2.5 million people visiting it over two days.

Amsterdam and Helsinki, "cleaning" cities thanks to their garage sales

Obviously, the development of garage sales is measured on a planetary scale. In the United States, it takes on the form of a world record with the 127 Yard Sale which is the longest garage sale in the world extending over 1,100 km from Michigan to Alabama. In Croatia, Zagreb has been home to one of the largest flea markets in Europe for more than forty years, while garage sales in Tokyo have become a kind of institution, appearing every weekend at different places in the city (Shinagawa, Oedo, Yoyogi, Shinjuku).
In Amsterdam, more than 750 stands set up one weekend per month at the NDSM, the city's former shipyards, on IJ-Hallen. Across the country, every April 27, the tradition is that King's Day, a Dutch national holiday, is transformed into a national garage sale where each citizen can occupy a small square of road or park to lay out any items they want to sell cheaply. A similar initiative was authorized by the city of Helsinki in Finland: the Siivouspäivä, the "Cleaning Day", which was organized for the second time in August 2017. "The idea is to make recycling easy, "one man's trash is another man's treasure", while creating a dynamic and responsible urban culture. Siivouspäivä has no official organization, each participant organizes themselves. Everyone is responsible for their own cleaning, says the website of Helsinki's Tourist Office. So, what are you doing next weekend?


Matthieu Rostac