Berlin opens giant city-run department store for second-hand goods

City planners around the world should take note of an exciting new development taking place in the German capital of Berlin. As the city looks to cut down on waste, it has opened a state-run department store that sells items that might get thrown away otherwise.

Located on the third floor of the Kreuzberg neighborhood’s well-known Karstadt department store, the huge store sells used and upcycled clothing, furniture, phones, and other electronics. The fact that it’s located in a popular, well-established department store is important: it represents an attempt to reach beyond the usual people who already patronize secondhand shops. While the state-run store is meant to redirect useable goods away from landfill sites, the idea is also 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.

Berlin sees the store as a vital step towards slashing waste in the city. According to city officials, 8 percent of electronic goods thrown away by Berlin households and small businesses are reusable, along with 6 percent of discarded bulky items, waste wood, and metal. Preventing these items from ending up in the trash means teaching the public about the value of reusing items, both for the environment and for your wallet—and the store can play a big role in that.

Initially, the store will have a six-month trial run, with plans in place 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.

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