Each year, two billion tonnes of municipal waste are generated worldwide. How can you illustrate how much that actually is? Suppose each ton of rubbish is represented by a 1 × 1 × 1 m cube.Two billion, or 2,000 million cubes, are enough to build a cuboid with a base of 1000 × 1000 meters and a height of 2000 meters. It is enough to imagine this ghastly structure also emitting an unpleasant smell to be ready to convert to re-commerce, i.e. to selling second-hand items.
Re-commerce is closely related to the idea of refurbishment. Restoring second-hand goods and putting them back into circulation is a response to the catastrophic vision of the Earth being transformed by us into a huge dumpster. The foundation of re-commerce is the concept of the circular economy.
What is a circular economy?
The linear economy is a sequence of processes which are defined by the words take – make – use – dispose – pollute. A circular economy is an economic system, in which raw materials circulate in a closed loop. The idea is to use waste from one process as raw materials in another process. The circular model works in a loop defined by the words make – use – reuse – remake – recycle – make. The idea of a circular economy obviously tries to emulate natural ecosystems. In both, circular economy and ecosystems, waste, instead of becoming unnecessary harmful pollution, is recovered and used to produce new goods. A key element in the circulation of raw materials is reuse and remake.
The story of a dress
In a linear economy, it is important to have the most efficient flow of raw materials and effective production. In a circular economy, the main goal is to keep the value of resources and extend the life of products as long as possible. For example, one wedding dress serves two sisters consecutively. Years later, it is transformed in line with the current fashion and is used by the daughter or daughter-in-law of one of the sisters for her wedding. Then, it can be used as a fairy gown (for a masquerade ball) for the granddaughter of the first owner. And this is not the end: it can finally be made into a dress for a doll. When it is to be disposed of, it can then be recycled. Thanks to all these changes in the dress’ ownership or its form, it was possible to avoid buying new products. There was neither consumption of raw materials and energy nor unnecessary transport. Significant amounts of greenhouse gases did not end up in the atmosphere. This is what it is all about.
What is e-commerce doing in a second-hand shop?
Of course, it is making money, because that has been the primary purpose of trading since ancient times. This is something worth fighting for: re-commerce is already valued at tens of billions of dollars. In the US, this market segment is expected to double its value by 2023. Nobody is surprised by stores selling used electronic equipment or machines, not to mention cars. Platforms for trade in second-hand clothes have been one of the biggest hits of recent years.
No wonder re-commerce has become a trend in the clothing industry. Everyone sometimes buys clothes that they never wear. Everyone also has a few items of clothing that they have put on once or twice and that’s it. Instead of storing such clothes in a closet or throwing them away, you can get back some of the money you spent on them. And thus contribute to climate protection. The giants of the fashion industry are also interested in re-commerce. Many clothing companies have been accused of preferring to destroy unsold goods rather than putting them up for sale at significantly reduced prices. In times when there is a fight with global warming, such a serious accusation can negatively affect the perception of the brand. Currently, every major producer runs its own outlet. Clothing upcycling, i.e. repairing used clothes and selling them again, may soon become en vogue. Both producers and third parties are interested in this form of trading.
Is re-commerce a temporary fashion or a permanent trend?
Boomers, and maybe also part of the X generation, may have a problem with answering this question. For most Millennials and Gen Zers, any form of concern for the environment is not a fashion, but a way of life. The new generation is not only aware of the urge to limit the negative impact on the environment, but also willingly engages in pro-ecological initiatives. Many of them are ecological consumers who are increasingly choosing brands that focus on re-commerce. This generation will account for 70% of the population by 2028 (currently 60%). So their role in shaping the world and the market will become more and more important, and their voice will become louder.