La REcyclerie, at the crossroads of ecology, solidarity economy, and circular economy

Halfway between home and work, a third place has unpacked its bags in the former Ornano station near the Saint-Ouen (Paris area) flea market – it’s called La REcyclerie. A nod to the historical neighbourhood, this hybrid organic canteen / repair shop / urban farm / cultural space has become a reference for eco-responsibility and breathes life into its motto "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle".

The story began with a call from the mayor of the 18th arrondissement in Paris. Having heard that the French railways company was putting the station up for sale, he suggested we set up a cultural project bearing in mind the challenges of social diversity, urban ecology, conviviality and easy to access education. From the first year of operation, we felt the need for a reliable expert environmental partner to help us with our approach - Veolia immediately agreed to support us. Four years and 60 employees later, the project’s success is obvious... La REcyclerie is now part of the decor , as if it had always been there.

Melting pot and sustainable development

Recyclerie poulallier

Students, families, homeless people, hipsters, neighbours... They all gather at the bar-canteen, the heart of this place where people meet up and talk. It is the REcyclerie’s economic engine, subsidizing up to 70% of the "Les Amis Recycleurs" association, which has 400 members. The association supports the REné workshop where, for an annual fee of €25, anyone can borrow tools, repair or have everyday objects repaired. It also runs the urban farm, a 1,000 square meter corridor along the railway, where there is a 400 square meter collective kitchen garden, a henhouse, an insect hotel, composters, and an aquaponics greenhouse – the largest in Ile-de-France. Here the hens feed on food waste from the canteen, red worms recycle organic waste, ducks eagerly eat the slugs...

La Recyclerie is also displaying a cultural program accessible to everyone at no cost. In total, more than one thousand events related to the circular economy and urban agriculture are organized thanks to the support of some one hundred structures (start-ups, companies, communities, artists, associations, schools, etc.) and are attended by some 250,000 people a year. One of the highlights is the 2C lecture series on the theme of the circular economy, which is aimed at students.

Proliferation of third place

The REcyclerie would now like to duplicate its approach and share the keys to its success through an open source model. Its innovative, modern and entertaining approach to the environment meets a strong demand from local authorities and people. Encouraged by Veolia and with the help of Antropia, the ESSEC Business School social incubator, the team has started preparing a White Paper. Already, 10 to 15 serious requests are being studied, both in the Paris region (Bobigny, Ivry, etc.) and in the provinces (Toulouse, Lille). And to pursue things even further, a school of third places will open its doors in the “Cité fertile” in Pantin (Paris area). From September 2017, it will train not only students in cultural project mediation but also local authority employees, promoters, etc. The adventure has only just begun!