France’s way of turning the old into gold - Monocolumn | Monocle


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12 December 2011

Cash-strapped local authorities of the world, take note: generating some extra revenue in these austere times could involve nothing more than scavenging in your own backyard. One man’s trash is apparently another man’s treasure and a new website in France is proving it. Unwanted equipment from state-owned schools, construction sites, fire stations and even cemeteries could be more sought after than you ever imagined.

A chainsaw, a collapsible ice rink and two-dozen swimming pool lockers – those are just a few of the items you can currently bid for on the AgoraStore website here in France. It’s a sort of municipal eBay. The site’s first transaction took place six years ago when The Mayor of Lyon decided to find a new home for an old lawnmower and ever since then, local authorities across France have been following suit. That’s given AgoraStore an impressive 50 per cent year-on-year revenue growth.

It’s not only the French who are sold on this. According to the site’s founder — David Riahi – one rather tired school bus has just been snapped up by a Poland-based buyer, and an artificial ski-jump has made its way to Africa. In both cases, something that was otherwise headed for the scrap-heap or a landfill has been given a new lease of life.

The idea seems to make perfect sense. The proceeds from the sale of these goods are ploughed back into the community and the website brings an element of transparency for citizens wondering what happened to old, but clearly still valuable, taxpayers’ property.

Anybody, anywhere in the world is allowed to bid although according to the website, vendors are strictly public bodies and companies. But presumably the more word gets out, the more bidders there’ll be for each item and that will drive up prices.

There’s one item that may be flooding the site in May 2012: portraits of the current president Nicolas Sarkozy, which adorn municipal buildings across France and which by then may have become surplus to requirements.


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