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Academia meets business at ReTuren: Social Innovation and Sustainability

Could Southern Skane’s municipality owned waste management company, VA SYD be an inspiration for others on advancing towards circular economy? Grounded by research, focused on practical applications and strong sense of communication the ReTuren project incorporates social and environmental sustainability and aims to reduce waste and change behaviour with the help of a social innovation researcher at Malmö University.
Savita Upadhaya and Anna Strannegård at ReTuren in Malmö.
Savita Upadhaya and Anna Strannegård at ReTuren in Malmö.

“This place is user-friendly and encourages people from all ages to come, to use it as a platform to interact, learn and contribute to the environment’’, says Savita Upadhaya, who has been at the forefront of this project. ReTuren, a recycling center that co-exists with a café projects a welcoming aura. The intention is to provide people opportunities to learn about waste and sustainability through creative activities, workshops while at the same time enabling people to donate things not needed anymore, or to take something from the varied collection of clothes, books, kitchenware and small furniture at ReTuren. 

ReTuren is communicating about sustainability through the many activities that are organized such as the ‘Fat event’. As Anna describes, ‘‘At the fat event, we had invited people to food, to come and learn about our recycling centre and how to collect used cooking oil through one of our designed PET bottle add-ons instead of throwing it in the drain.’’ A more hands on approach followed by ReTuren is through workshops such as those on bike repairs, clothing repairs, etc. In addition, Returen also functions as a waste collection site where people can bring other wastes to recycle such as hazardous waste. Such initiatives form a crucial part of social sustainability at ReTuren that aims to bring knowledge and behavior change to people through fun and creative activities. According to Savita, “4 tons of goods have been saved since the start of ReTuren in November 2015”.

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As Savita puts it, “The motivation behind ReTuren was to reduce the amount of household waste as 80% citizens live in apartments in Malmö with 7000 people in Lindängen district, generating 500 kg/person waste.” Savita sees many positive outcomes of the project and hopes that there would be more of such initiatives as the project would soon come through the evaluation phase. She acknowledges the challenges faced but at the same time emphasizes on the importance of the process being a learning one and the project to be an experimental one. Realizing that such an initiative is part of a movement towards a circular economy, Savita and Anna don’t feel that there is any competition with second hand stores expressing that first, ReTuren functions differently and second, that there is just too much wasted goods at the moment meaning high potential for such initiatives.

Scientifically grounded, participatory in nature, and open minded, VA SYD follows their motto ’for the environment, close to you’ (translated from Swedish), and attempts to bring change to the throughput economy. In future, they hope to set up similar initiatives, around ten across Malmo, with a similar aim to reduce and upcycle waste, create social and environmental sustainability and change behaviour.

Text: Aakash Dhingra, a student journalist at Sustainability Forum and a master student at LUCSUS, Lund University.

Short facts on the project

  • Pilot started in November,2015

  • Parties involved: VA SYD, Sysav, Stpln, Stadsområde Söder, JobbMalmö, K3 Malmö högskola

  • Financer: Vinnova

  • Location: Lindgården Lindängen, Malmö, Sweden

  • Currently in evaluation phase till November, 2016

Website: http://www.vasyd.se/Artiklar/Avfall/ReTuren

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReTurenMalmo/

Piano Project: http://www.farggladatoner.com/

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