The Repair Cafe – a free event to enable people to repair, rather than replace, their broken possessions – comes from the Netherlands. In the UK there are currently eight Repair Cafes; this first guest blog from Katherine Lee [Chris Lee’s daughter] sets the scene for the February launch of a ninth – the Royston Repair Cafe in North Hertfordshire.
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Every hour this country produces enough waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall. Since this quantity is clearly unsustainable, the importance of changing attitudes towards consumption and waste management has never been greater. Most of us are familiar with the waste minimisation strategies of reduce, reuse and recycle, but there is an important omission, which warrants greater attention: repair.
Repair is an approach recently advocated by Professor David Mackay, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. In our current throwaway culture, there is often a perception that repair requires more effort and is more costly than replacement. In fact, the opposite may be true. Consumers stand to gain much more than a working item by getting involved in the repair process; they may save money, develop skills, a sense of ownership, and a greater understanding of what makes a good product that is built to last. Often it may seem we have forgotten how to repair, or even that it’s a viable option, but the availability of low/no-cost repair support and expertise is actually increasing.
One example is the Repair Café, a free community initiative where participants learn how to mend their broken items under specialist guidance. Since the first Repair Café in Amsterdam in 2009, many more have been set up across Europe and North America. Another international scheme is The Restart Project, aiming to tackle one of the fastest growing waste streams by specialising in the repair of electronic equipment through free Restart Parties. Repairs may also be undertaken quickly and cheaply at home as help is available online. Ifixit.com is a free, open-source repair manual for electronic items and gadgets. All of these projects have the same aim, to bring communities together to reduce waste by teaching people how to repair.
Whilst reduce, reuse and recycle remain important waste management strategies, given its diverse social, economic and environmental benefits, it is time to recognise the importance of repair.
Online repair tutorials and guides: www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2014/jan/09/how-to-repair-your-broken-goods-from-an-iphone-to-a-washing-machine
For updates and information on repair and reuse: www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe