By : Feargus O’Sullivan
(18 September 2020)
In a bid to dramatically reduce waste, the Berlin government launched a facility in September that could be the first of its kind: a state-run department store that both sells items that might otherwise get thrown away and acts as an education center encouraging repair and reuse.
Called B-Wa(h)renhaus (an untranslatable pun meaning both department store and “conserving house”), the store covers over 7,000 square feet and sells used and upcycled clothing, furniture, phones and other electronics. In an attempt to reach beyond the usual people who already patronize secondhand shops, the store’s location is also significant: It’s not in an especially hip location, or a flea market known for knock-down prices, but within one of Berlin’s most established, middle-of-the-road department stores.
The new store’s initial six-month run will be on the third floor of the Kreuzberg neighborhood’s well-known Karstadt department store, but the city’s plans to sponsor its own re-use stores extend way beyond that time limit. The city says that it aims to open three or four re-use stores across Berlin in the near future. Its longer-term ambition, according to the city’s 2020-2030 waste master plan, is to launch a store in every one of Berlin’s 12 boroughs.
These city-run stores (which already have one-off, smaller-scale counterparts in cities including Hamburg and Vienna) won’t just be standard secondhand markets designed to save useable goods from going to landfill sites. According to the city’s press release, Berlin hopes to use the stores to “anchor the re-use of used goods in urban society” by functioning as centers to educate and spread tips on re-use — especially to sections of the public that aren’t currently much involved in the circular economy. The initiative is part of a broader plan from Berlin’s ruling center-left/Green/left coalition that looks to slash waste in all areas of the city’s economy.
This drive poses challenges partly because, by international standards, Berlin’s recycling and re-use systems are already pretty good. Berlin currently recycles 49% of “mineral construction waste” — materials such as concrete, brick and gypsum that historically have made up the majority of the city’s trash haul. Since 2008, the city has also managed to reduce annual household waste by 11 kilos (24.3 pounds) per resident. The city government wants to improve these targets in the next decade.
When it comes to households, better re-use of goods could make a real difference in reaching this goal. The city estimates that 8% of electronic goods thrown away by Berlin households and small businesses are reusable, along with 6% of discarded bulky items, waste wood and metal. It won’t be possible to prevent these items ending up in the trash, however, without a real commitment to changing habits from a wide swath of the population. Currently, those mostly likely to reuse or buy secondhand include the very poor and the especially eco-conscious.
The city’s plan shows how much difference a commitment to reaching other populations would make. It models two possible levels of public commitment to waste-reduction: a “basic scenario” in which a third of Berliners cooperate fully with guidelines, and an “eco scenario” in which between a half and two-thirds of Berliners follow rules to the letter. If the city reaches the “eco scenario,” it could reduce the city’s trash by 5.5 kilos per resident more annually than with the basic scenario. It would also ensure that a further 17 kilos extra per person is recycled rather than ending up in a landfill.
The city’s efforts to get to the latter scenario started with more modest efforts to expand the secondhand market. “Three years ago, we started collecting all kinds of used goods that people have in their cellars or attics,” says city spokesperson Dorothee Winden. “Things that are well-preserved and functioning but aren’t being used anymore. The goal is to give these things a new life with somebody who can use them.”
Initially, these rescued goods were channeled back into the market through Berlin’s large network of secondhand stores, part of a well-established sustainable commerce scene that already included a packaging-free supermarket. Berlin then started opening its own premises, to scale up how many goods it could distribute and to provide a public face for the drive. In August, Berlin’s Sanitation and Recycling Department opened its own first modest re-use store, in the far-western suburb of Reinickendorf, before the city launched the much larger store in Kreuzberg this month.
The volume and quality of stuff the city uncovered through reaching out to residents was striking. “When the sanitation department opened their store in August,” says Winden, “they had a whole range of kid’s bicycles on sale that were in perfect shape, with no faults at all.”
At the new store, the city pays rent for the floor space itself and selects merchants to run stalls. None of the products these merchants sell are new to the market, but B-Wa(h)renhaus stands out in one important respect: Many of the items on sale have been recovered from the city’s recycling system, or are from sources that might not normally find their way to stores. These include recycled electrical goods that have been fixed, checked and come with a one-year warranty. The stalls also sell products and goods that have been made exclusively by upcycling discarded materials.
The possible sources of goods for these stores are numerous. In some cases, says Winden, residents dump unwanted stuff because re-homing it feels like a chore. “Often when people move homes, it seems like too much effort to take photos, make an ad and find someone to pick up or buy your old things.” When people do make the effort, their stuff doesn’t automatically end up in places where it is useful. “We get a lot of female clothing from [homeless charity] Berlin City Mission. Berliners donate a lot of clothing to them to help out homeless people, but they can’t often pass on women’s clothes within their organization because they work mainly with men.” In other cases, the wastefulness of the online shopping economy provides a source. “We have partners who sell clothing that has been returned to online sellers,” says Winden. “They haven’t been used but they can’t be resold.”
The open rooftop on the floor above the store is used for education and community engagement programs, including regular workshops on topics such as how to minimize food waste or turn textile remnants into clothing. It also hosts a bi-monthly “repair cafe” where people can get assistance and advice on how to fix faulty household items.
The store’s name was chosen from entrants to a public competition, one that also gave an award to a project that recycled school T-shirts (used as an informal school uniform in some German schools) so that parents don’t have to buy new ones every year. Promoting such an obviously public mingling place in a pandemic year might seem odd, even with social distancing measures in place. But in a city where stores started reopening after lockdown as early as May, locals have long gotten used to cautious social mixing — and the city has refocused its attention on the longer-term environmental crisis.
This News hash been reales by bloomberg.com dengan judul “Berlin Now Has a City-Run Recycling Department Store”,
Penulis: Gloria Fransisca Katharina Lawi
Editor : Mia Chitra Dinisari