• This new Berlin store sells only well-preserved second-hand goods.
  • From furniture to fashions, everything in the store is pre-owned.
  • By selecting only high-quality items, the city hopes to bring an end to throwaway culture.
  • It's part of a city-wide drive to make Berlin a zero-waste city by 2030.

Berlin’s city government has just taken the unusual step of opening a department store. But this is no typical retail outlet – the store sells only high-quality recycled and upcycled items.

It’s all part of the city’s efforts to reduce waste and protect the environment. The pop-up shop will be open on the third floor of the city’s Karstadt Hermannplatz department store, in the hip Kreuzberg district, for the next six months. If the pilot project works, more stores are planned.

Called B-Wa(h)renhaus, the store aims to attract people who might not consider shopping at the city’s many second-hand furniture and clothing shops.

Across the new store’s 650 square meters of selling space, nine vendors offer products ranging from recycled and upcycled furniture and clothing to refurbished electrical appliances and toys. For anyone who fancies a snack, there’s also an outlet selling dumplings that do good – they’re made from “excess but high-quality” ingredients.

circular economy great reset recycled up-cycled make do and mend fixed new sustainability sustainable
Products at the store include recycled furniture and refurbished electrical appliances.
Image: City of Berlin/SenUVK

On the floor above is a meeting space that will be used for a series of events to raise awareness of recycling and reuse, including promoting a scheme to allow shoppers to borrow cargo bikes to take their bargains home.

“Our motto is ‘new can be used’,” says Stefan Tidow, State Secretary for Environment and Climate Protection, who officially opened the store. “We want to make well-preserved used goods more easily accessible to even more people.”

Used shopping

B-Wa(h)renhaus forms part of the city’s Zero Waste policy, endorsed by Berlin’s senate. Tidow’s initial plan is to open four more "department stores of the future", selling good-quality second-hand goods at attractive prices.

In the long run, he wants to see similar stores in each of Berlin’s 12 boroughs to embed “used shopping” as part of the city’s lifestyle and help to end the throwaway culture once and for all.

Berlin wants to be a zero-waste city by 2030. European Commission data shows it already recycles 90% of glass and paper waste and 41% of plastics and metal. Bloomberg reports that the city has cut annual household waste per resident by 11 kilos since 2008.

Households separate their trash into five colour-coded bins for recycling and rubbish that cannot be recycled is burned in a waste-to-energy plant. The city’s recycling service says food waste used to produce biogas has to date replaced 2.5 million litres of diesel.

Circular economy

What is a circular economy?

The global population is expected to reach close to 9 billion people by 2030 – inclusive of 3 billion new middle-class consumers.This places unprecedented pressure on natural resources to meet future consumer demand.

A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models.

Nothing that is made in a circular economy becomes waste, moving away from our current linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy. The circular economy’s potential for innovation, job creation and economic development is huge: estimates indicate a trillion-dollar opportunity.

The World Economic Forum has collaborated with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for a number of years to accelerate the Circular Economy transition through Project MainStream - a CEO-led initiative that helps to scale business driven circular economy innovations.

Join our project, part of the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security System Initiative, by contacting us to become a member or partner.

In their report on the circular economy, the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation call for international cooperation to reduce demand for raw materials by reusing and repurposing existing products to extend their productive lives.

“It can become the new normal to buy used goods,” Tidow says. “Used things have a future – those who give used things a second life avoid waste, save raw materials and protect the environment and the climate.”