The City of Berlin Now Runs a Department Store That Sells All Recycled Goods


In an effort to topple the “throw away culture,” and promote re-use and repair, the city of Berlin has taken the unique step of opening its own secondhand department store.

This isn’t your grandma’s thrift shop. It resells perfectly good items from retail outlets that would otherwise be thrown away.

A pun on the German words for “department store” and “conserving house”, B-Wa(h)renhaus sells a wide variety of products, including clothing, furniture, cell phones and other electronics.

Far from simply selling old junk “as is,” the electronic goods have been fixed by expert technicians and come with a one year warranty.

And, to reach beyond the normal demographic of secondhand shoppers, the store was erected right in the middle of the famous Karstadt department store.

With the success of its initial six-month trial run on the third floor of that store, the city plans to open four more similar operations in other parts of Berlin. By 2030, it hopes to have at least one location in each of Berlin’s 12 boroughs.

These stores are just the latest addition to Berlin’s impressive sustainability resume. Since 2008, city policies and educational campaigns have reduced average annual household waste by about 25 pounds (11kg) per resident. It also recycles about 49% of its mineral construction waste—such as brick and concrete.

Currently, the city estimates that 8% of discarded electronic goods and 6% of bulky items thrown away can actually be re-used. The goal is to expand the market for these items beyond the usual bargain hunters and eco-conscious consumers.

“Three years ago, we started collecting all kinds of used goods that people have in their cellars or attics,” city spokesperson Dorothee Winden told Bloomberg CityLab. “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.”

The stores also include an education center inside the store to encourage more sustainable lifestyles—and also gave an award (pictured above) to a project that recycled school uniforms, so that parents don’t have to buy new ones every year.

The green enterprise has also connected the Berlin City Homeless Mission with online apparel retailers that provide clothing which has been returned to them and cannot be re-sold.