“I’ve always had a passion for reuse — for seeing opportunity and potential in things others discard. As a designer and engineer, the complete lack of consideration for reuse and sustainability disappointed me, both in my training and from design clients once I began working in the industry. I left the industry to prove that, with the right care and skillset, it was viable to develop quality, functional, affordable products, without utilising solely new materials. Our Vintage Bluetooth Speakers, made from discarded radios, became our proof of concept. I quickly discovered that there were not really any retail opportunities for reclaimed — as opposed to as-found secondhand or high-end antique — goods, that could accurately present the benefits of such items. As a result, and with the assistance at the time of Renew Geelong, The Reimaginarium was born.
From a circular economy perspective, our core aim is to minimise the number of new materials that enter our economy in the form of consumer goods. If we can make repaired, repurposed, or reclaimed goods just as desirable, functional and accessible as new ones, then we eliminate the perceived barrier of having to make sacrifices to shop circular goods.”
We want to keep as many existing goods and materials in circulation as possible, and in doing so, reduce the need for new materials to be added to our economy. Unlike the recycling industry, we are focused not only on the raw materials, but in maintaining the embedded energy of goods by capturing and reusing them before they require recycling.
“We have been talking about fossil fuels, about recycling, about waste, since before I was born and there is a strong awareness of these issues, but awareness on its own does not guarantee action. In fact, awareness without a method of action that is considered socially acceptable can lead to inaction. At The Reimaginarium, we wanted to take a different approach. We thought rather than demanding changes in people’s behaviour, we would change their opportunities. We wanted to provide a service that makes reuse just as convenient as purchasing new. To see if we could get to the point where customers are purchasing our goods unaware of the environmental benefits, rather than because of them. This is not a common approach, but we are confident it is the approach with the greatest potential for impact.
We are still working towards making purchasing renewed as convenient and attractive as purchasing new, but already in our Geelong retail store we are seeing the impacts of the moves we have made in this direction. By carefully curating our store so that every reclaimed good that we offer provides the same functionality as a similarly priced new piece, providing a clean, accessible shop layout and ensuring our staff are knowledgeable about our product, we have opened a lot of eyes to reclaimed goods. Our methodology has built instinctual trust from customers in the goods that we offer, our location in central Geelong has provided accessibility and we have become a facilitator for a far greater range of methods of reuse than we had initially imagined. In store right now we have items made from furniture, musical instruments, floorboards, car parts, cutlery, sea glass, old radios, curtains, sheets, blankets, bottles, tablecloths and more.”
BARRIERS TO CHANGE:
“Our biggest barrier so far has been government acceptance of the value of reuse and repair in the circular economy. We have found that, while governments are keen to reduce waste and improve their circularity, they still look at circularity as recycling. Because of this, funding and opportunities provided at all levels of government seem to focus on recycling, unintentionally undermining or ignoring more circular possibilities.
Since the recycling industry is so well established, we also perceive that governments find it easier to fund large-scale established recyclers to improve their processes and throughput, rather than supporting the much smaller and more diverse re-users and repairers, even though they are potentially a more circular and sustainable solution. Communicating with stakeholders such as government about the value and opportunities that lie in supporting and growing the reuse industry, so that it can become as large and efficient as the recycling industry, has been our biggest challenge to date.”