A new life for old treasures - a second chance for discarded items

The flea market at the Warngau recycling center brings discarded treasures directly back into the cycle.


Both collectors and bargain hunters will find what they are looking for here. The operation of the flea market directly at the recycling center is a pleasant service for the residents. It saves them travel time and the logistics involved in disposing of used items.

A flea market is located at the Warngauer Wertstoffhof (WSH) and is clearly marked by a sign and provided shopping carts. Part of the hall, which is used to the north for the acceptance of problem waste and to the south for the storage of waste paper, was already demarcated when the hall was put into operation. However, the flea market area was recently covered with lightweight polycarbonate elements so that the sales area is more comfortable for its visitors and the materials do not get dusty so quickly. This has been well done. Lighting, structuring as well as the decoration of the flea market make this a feel-good store where one likes to spend longer time browsing. As if you were stepping through the closet doors in Narnia, you enter a world full of treasures here. Valuable materials are often disposed of because private households would have to make an extra effort to pass them on or sell them to other people in the usual online exchanges such as Ebay, etc., or because there is a lack of direct buyers. With the flea market directly at the WSH the materials can be saved again shortly before the waste container. This makes both the recycling center staff and the disposal companies happy. In addition to the ecological aspect that materials do not have to be recycled with a lot of energy, there is also emotional, artistic and craft value in the things that are to find a new home here, which would otherwise end up in the garbage can. In addition, the disposers save the costs for the disposal services of WSH. The concept, which has now been in place for almost 30 years, thus pays off in many ways.

Regional network informs about action days

To ensure that the local population is informed and that there is a constant decrease, the WSH staff plans frequent action days. Information about current offers can be found on the website of VIVO Warngau as well as in regional newspapers, because the press supports the flea market actively. For the flea market organization and its functioning, therefore, in addition to Ms. Hünerfeld (recyclables collection management/management systems), Mr. Spitzer (responsible for flea market operations) and their WSH employees:inside, the local/regional network is also responsible. Carnival events also take place. Selected items have been gathered in the flea market and put on display in the entrance area, clearly visible.
Fig. 1 Book corner
Fig.2 Exhibits
Social structure of customers - with the Porsche to the flea market

According to Mr. Spitzer, the social structure cannot be clearly defined, as people from a wide variety of contexts come to the flea market to browse. In addition to collectors (including a literature professor) and low-income earners, the market serves a broad spectrum of consumers of all ages. Young people often show interest in the clothing, but can also equip themselves well here for moving out of home. In addition to the furniture department located on the second floor, there is a large selection of high-quality tableware, as well as lamps and other decorative items. Decorative items actually made the most sales at the flea market in calendar year 2022. Vintage decor is trendy and appeals to all generations and walks of life. The employees of the recycling center also like to browse through the store from time to time and also buy practical and beautiful things for the home or for relatives and acquaintances.

Waste avoidance as added value - information on economic efficiency

In addition to promotions such as "books at half price", "Christmas promotions" and Co, the WSH also ensures with school tours for more attention and awareness of the value of used items and thus makes an important contribution to waste prevention. According to Annerose Hünerfeld, this is the true value of the flea market, and not just in monetary terms.

Economically, the flea market is self-supporting with all its operating costs. However, the basic motivation for running the flea market is that the goods "really stay in the cycle".  Therefore there is also no acceptance stop for goods. According to our calculations, about 21 tons of goods were sold in 2022.

The staff keeps a constant eye on the revenues and public measures and strives to continuously optimize the functioning of the market.

Customer satisfaction creates customer loyalty

The flea market business sets high standards for the quality of its items for sale. All items are checked, cleaned and washed before being displayed in the store. Thus, according to Ms. Hünerfeld, the flea market guarantees the passing on of "actually good goods".

Used electrical appliances at the VIVO KU flea market

In addition, no electrical appliances with personal data are sold, as the company cannot guarantee data protection. Old electrical appliances, such as washing machines, are only sold as tinker goods, without warranty, as reuse poses too many risks. Due to the good control of the goods, there have been only two complaints in the whole time of operation (since 1995). The last one was 5-6 years ago, because a customer was dissatisfied with the sound quality of a purchased stereo. In cases of dissatisfaction with the quality of purchased items, the flea market takes back all items without argument and at any time.


A concept like this could also make sense for other recycling centers, provided there is enough space for the goods and also for parked vehicles. Many valuable items are recycled at high cost and energy expenditure, whereas other people could still have done a lot with them. By building up a sensible network to pass on used goods quickly and easily, we are doing ourselves and the environment a great favor.