Reviving the lost art of repair

In more frugal times, repairing or “making do and mending” was the standard response when things broke. Today, when household items fail, it seems like the most natural solution is to throw the old one away and buy a replacement. And we throw away a lot. According to iFixit, an American how-to website that sells repair parts and publishes free online repair guides for consumer electronics and gadgets, at least 30% of electric and electronic products are discarded when they are still in a repairable state. This kind of rubbish is becoming one of the world’s fastest growing waste streams.

When did you last fix something?

This was the question I asked myself when I saw the banner promoting a Repair Café at my local community centre in North Wales. As part of a grass-roots movement, Repair Cafés aim to reduce waste by empowering owners to fix the things they already own, thereby saving them money and helping the planet. People are invited to bring along broken or damaged items for volunteer repairers to try to fix, for free. Typical services include bicycle maintenance, electrical appliance repairs, computing assistance, sewing, ornament repairs and woodworking. The repairers at my local event were happy to have a look at most things, except microwaves, as they are too risky to repair.

The Repair Café movement started in the Netherlands and its success led to the Repair Café Foundation, a non-profit organisation has provided professional support to local groups in the Netherlands and other countries.

Frustrated by the unsustainable growth of landfill sites and waste, Joe O’Mahoney and Cerys Jones founded Repair Cafe Wales in April 2017. Their aims are to reduce waste, to develop skills by promoting a repair culture and to bring communities together through inspiring, low-key events. The project is funded by the Welsh Government’s Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme and administered by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

Are these free repair get-togethers competing with professional repair specialists? It would seem not. Organisers want to focus attention on repair culture and visitors are frequently advised to go to one of the few repair professionals still in business.

Can you fix it? Probably! Find a Repair Café near you: