Transforming Waste into Wonder: Inside ReTuna, the World’s First Reuse Mall

In episode 8 of the Sustainable Solutions with Planet Aid podcast, Planet Aid Communications Content Specialist, Monica Johnson, and Communications Manager Haley Chitty welcome Simon Glimtoft, the Mall Manager for ReTuna Återbruksgalleria in Eskilstuna, Sweden. ReTuna is considered the world’s first recycling mall. Continue reading for the conversation highlights, or listen to the full podcast on platforms like Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or the Planet Aid website.

A Revolutionary Model: Retuna Recycling Mall

The word "Återbruksgalleria” translates to “recycling mall” in Swedish. It fitly describes this first-of-its-kind mall dedicated to secondhand shopping. By working hand-in-hand with the municipality's nearby recycling center, donated materials are reused, repurposed, and given a brand new life.  In this episode, Glimtoft shares the transformative journey of Eskilstuna—the home of ReTuna—from an industrial town with high crime rates to a pioneering municipality in sustainability.

The inception of ReTuna was discussed as early as 2007 and realized in 2014 with the support of local politicians and the logistics company DHL. The sustainable mall and accompanying recycling center marks a significant shift towards reducing waste and promoting reuse. Glimtoft credits the “green transition’ with helping to revitalize the Eskiltuna municipality.


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A Catalyst for Community and Environmental Change

ReTuna is not just a mall, it's a vital investment in, and for, the community, according to Glimtoft. The presence of ReTuna has contributed to lowering crime rates and boosting employment by fostering a green transition, that has huge implications for the environment.

A 2024 case study about ReTuna, called Evaluation of Sustainable Architecture Principles Application in Recycling Mall states, “Through its activities, the mall fosters a more sustainable urban ecosystem by reducing the demand for new resources and minimizing the environmental impact associated with waste disposal.”

The mall is intimately connected with the city's recycling center and embodies a successful partnership between the municipality and its utility company. The model successfully illustrates how city-run initiatives can lead to sustainable urban development. By providing a unique blend of environmental responsibility and economic viability, it offers a blueprint for cities worldwide.

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A Unique Shopping Experience and Educational Hub

ReTuna offers visitors an upscale secondhand shopping experience, challenging the stigma associated with pre-owned goods. Glimtoft stresses the importance of the commercial feel of the mall, negating preconceived notions of an inelegant or unsophisticated atmosphere.  

No stone is unturned, from furniture to fashion, sports, and even a food waste store, the mall showcases a diverse range of upcycled and reused products, emphasizing quality and uniqueness. Furthermore, ReTuna serves as an educational hub, providing a one-year education program in recycled design and supplying reusable materials to local preschools. This innovative approach not only encourages creativity in the youth; it also instills the principles of sustainability from an early age.


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Sustainable Business Practices at Retuna: A Model for Eco-Conscious Retail

Prospective vendors seeking to set up a store at ReTuna must provide a business plan outlining their vision and commitment to operating in a socially sustainable manner. Notably, Glimtoft explains the importance of being socially sustainable when illustrating the mall's success. The mall’s policy requires at least two people to operate a store to ensure work-life balance for vendors that is sustainable.

This episode also explores the values underpinning store operations at ReTuna. Glimtoft stresses the significance of having a mission beyond profits or saving the world. He urges vendors to contribute to environmental conservation while maintaining financial viability.

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Vendors primarily receive materials from ReTuna or resident donations, ensuring that most goods are upcycled or repurposed. Nevertheless, vendors have some flexibility to source items externally.

A Model to be Replicated

Glimtoft hopes that ReTuna will be a model for other municipalities and cities worldwide. He encourages cities, municipalities, and other countries to visit ReTuna, even providing guided tours to explain how the operation works. ReTuna exemplifies how innovative solutions can transform waste management into a sustainable, profitable, and community-enhancing enterprise. It stands as a testament to the power of reimagining the lifecycle of goods in creating a more sustainable future for our planet.

Watch the full episode of Sustainable Solutions with Planet Aid featuring Simon Glimtoft, and stay tuned for our monthly podcast with other sustainable leaders.

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