Berlin’s New Reuse Shop is Redefining Second-Hand Goods

From iPhones to furniture and much more, everything in this second hand shop has been previously owned.

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Why buy new when you can buy a gently used item for so much less? That’s the concept behind Berlin’s  recently introduced high-quality state-run second-hand store. However, unlike conventional thrift shops this reuse store is designed to lure in a new audience of buyers and donors, and create a space that encourages repair and reuse through education and community-engagement.

According to Bloomberg City Lab, Berlin’s shop, which is called B-Wa(h)renhaus – which is roughly translated to a department store and conserving house— is located on the third floor of a well-known department store in the city’s diverse Kreuzberg neighborhood. The 7,000 square foot store sells everything from upcycled and previously-owned clothing to furniture and even electronics. It also runs community events and workshops that promote and teach the art of reusing and upcycling.

The shop has been launched by the city’s department of Sanitation and Recycling, and seeks out belongings that wouldn’t typically have a second-life, such as items belonging to people who don’t typically sell online or repair. Some items have also been recovered from within the city’s municipal recycling system. 

The store also sells items that have been upcycled, meaning that they are made out of discarded goods and given new life by design. Electronics that have been repaired, tested, and include a one-year warranty are also part of the store’s sales items as electronic waste is a significant component in city-wide consumer waste.  What unites all of these factors is that absolutely everything in the store has been previously owned in some capacity or another. 

The Kreuzberg store is the second state-owned re-use shop to open in 2020, and was launched shortly after the city opened the first (and smaller) location, which sits in the suburb of Reinickendorf. 

The initiative is part of Berlin’s plan to be completely zero-waste by 2030. To turn that goal into a reality, the city plans to open three or four additional stores in the near future, and eventually even have one located in every one of Berlin’s 12 boroughs. 

By making such stores accessible, the city is increasing the consumer's ability and likelihood of purchasing second-hand. Dorothee Winden, deputy press speaker of the city’s department for the environment, transport, and climate told Fast Company, “Reused goods are offered where people do their shopping.”

Explaining that this project stands out from other second-hand stores due to its location. Research suggests that people tend to engage in sustainable behavior when it is convenient. By placing reuse stores throughout the various boroughs and inside of well-known department stores, the city is bringing the solution all the way to the consumer.

Berlin’s waste reduction initiatives have so far been very successful. According to Bloomberg, the city has already cut its mineral construction waste by 49 percent, and even among households, the waste has decreased by 24 pounds per resident per year

Collectively these initiatives not only increase sustainability, but they also offer inspiration, educational, and community engagement to both local and global citizens. Stores like B-Wa(h)renhaus change the discussion around disposing and consuming goods, and frame the conversation in a way that supports a circular economy that gives back to the earth and to the local community. 

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