Community Spaces Fighting Waste, Promoting Sustainability
Since Martine Postma organised the very first Repair Café in Amsterdam, on October 18, 2009, they have grown to over 2700 globally, more than 40,000 volunteers and more than 50,000 items repaired monthly (source: April 2023 RepairCafe.org).
Repair Cafés are community spaces where people can bring their broken items – domestic electronics, clothing, toys, furniture etc – and get help repairing them for free by a team of local volunteers. According to a 2020 EU survey, 77 percent of us would rather repair our goods than buy new.
Industry has a history of planned obsolescence. The amount we waste is huge – electronic waste (discarded products with a battery or plug such as computers and mobile phones) is predicted to rise to over 74 million metric tonnes by 2030 – it increased by over 20% between 2014 and 2019. Too much of it is sent to less-developed countries.
Repair Cafés aim to reduce waste and promote sustainability by encouraging people to repair rather than replace belongings. In a society where it is often cheaper and easier to buy new items than to repair old ones, Repair Cafés offer an alternative approach that is both environmentally friendly and socially beneficial.
Repair Cafés help people to learn new skills and connect with their community. Volunteers at Repair Cafés are often skilled in a variety of areas, from electronics to woodworking, and are able to pass on their knowledge to others. This not only helps to reduce waste, but also helps to build stronger, more connected communities.
As people become more conscious of the need to reduce waste and live more sustainably, more and more products are becoming repairble. It’s not enough but things like Fairphone’s smartphones, the new, mid-range Nokia ‘repairable’ phones, Gerrard Street’s headphones, MNT Reform and Framework laptops are showing the way. Smartphone manufacturers who want to sell in the EU will soon have to make spare parts available to anyone who buys a phone. In the next few years, manufacturers will have to come up with designs that allow users to replace batteries themselves.
Some Repair Cafés have even expanded their services to include workshops and events on topics such as upcycling and sustainable living. Our Haringey Fixers Repair Cafés started with two in Tottenham and continue to grow apace.
The success of Repair Cafés highlights the importance of community-led initiatives in promoting sustainability and reducing waste. By providing a space for people to repair their belongings and learn new skills, Repair Cafés are helping to build stronger, more sustainable communities across the UK.