At the end of June RREUSE held a members’ meeting in Amsterdam attended by representatives from eleven member organisations and nine European countries. The meeting, hosted by bKN, a Dutch network of re-use social enterprises, provided a forum for discussion about current issues facing the re-use sector and an opportunity to visit three re-use centres in the Netherlands. The invited keynote speakers broadened the perspective on the topics of re-use and social economy. The consultancy Accenture introduced their cooperation with bKN aiming to help the network solve challenges such as the decline in product quality on today’s market and customer outreach as well as to facilitate the collaborative learning process. The City of Amsterdam presented a strategic plan to increase social participation and support of social enterprises aiming at 125 000 jobs created for people with occupational disabilities and additional 30 000 jobs in a ‘sheltered environment’ until 2026 . Finally, the Repair Café foundation spoke about their mission to raise awareness of reparability of products, changing people’s attitude towards repair and teach them how to repair products together.
Site visits of three re-use facilities of bKN’s complemented the discussions. Large scale re-use shops with well-conceived concepts were showcased: Noppes in Beverwijk, Het Goed in Zaandam and Rataplan in Amsterdam.
Noppes employs some 680 people in 15 shops including a 5500 square meters facility in Beverwijk, the biggest re-use store in the Netherlands. Het Goed is a chain of 25 shops with 1100 employees. Het Goed shops place emphasis on the customer and communication as well as on providing unique products for a reasonable price. The Rataplan store in Amsterdam with a surface area of 3500 square meters is the flagship of a wider chain of 18 shops which, as in total. Apart from quality second hand goods it also offers clothes repair service and bike service at train stations resulting in 600 paid jobs. Although each of the sites has a different concept and spirit, all situated in shopping areas they provide an alternative with an environmental and social dimension.
The vision which they share is clear – to prevent more items being discarded, to grow and to provide more jobs to disadvantaged groups of the society. Here products otherwise disposed are turned into opportunities for a wide range of people. As the Dutch saying goes, nobody should sit home by the window and observe the world from behind the geraniums.