The general trend among shoppers today is to buy less. Or, if that’s not possible, to buy something that can at least be recycled when it stops being useful, as opposed to ending up in landfill. The UK generates more than 222.9 million tonnes a year in waste and under 50% of this is recycled. Although huge progress has been made towards reaching targets such as recycling half of household waste by 2020, what happens to the rest of the unwanted items we buy? A new phenomenon is trying to teach consumers to see old, broken or damaged items differently. The Repair Café is an idea that has started to gain popularity for those looking for an alternative to simply throwing things out.
What is a Repair Café?
It’s an idea that has been put into practice in a number of locations, including Reading and London, by those trying to drive change in consumer attitudes. Rather than taking items such as a damaged vacuum cleaner or jeans that have seen better days, to the tip or a charity shop you can go to the Repair Café instead. There, you’ll be able to find a new lease of life for items that might otherwise just have been thrown away. The Repair Café works like this:
Identify items in your home that have seen better days but are not completely unsalvageable. Broken bikes, old pieces of furniture, damaged clothes or shoes and equipment like sewing machines are common.
Book a 30-minute repair slot at the Repair Café.
Take your item along to the Repair Café and speak to a repair specialist, watch them as they work and see how your item is transformed from old and broken to exciting and usable again. With the added benefit that you won’t have to buy a replacement, so saving you money and/or helping to stop you going further into debt.
Most Repair Cafes book on a first come, first served, basis so if you’re keen to get your items looked at then it’s worth getting in there early.
What can you take to a Repair Café?
These are just a few of the most common items: crockery, furniture, toys, bicycles, electrical appliances, clothes and shoes. As long as you can transport it to the Repair Café then you can take it in.
What are the benefits of the Repair Café?
You don’t just drop the items off. Instead, you’ll be sitting with the specialist while they carry out repairs on whatever it is that you’ve brought into the Repair Café. This can be a great learning experience and provides a form of training so that you can potentially carry out your own repairs in the future.
Giving a longer life to household items. Simply because most of us don’t have the skills to carry out repairs ourselves, we often throw out items that still have a lot of life left in them. Taking them to a Repair Café instead means that you can avoid going out and having to buy new items by reusing older ones in this way.
Understanding more about the products. As well as receiving some repairs training, you’ll be able to get more of an idea of how your items function. This includes the processes and materials that go into the manufacturing of products.
Benefits to the environment. When items are repaired and reused we don’t tend to buy new. The process of manufacturing – and, to a lesser extent, recycling – generate harmful CO2 emissions, which are detrimental to the environment. If demand for new items drops then so too does the CO2 that is produced in the process of manufacturing them.
Where’s your nearest Repair Café?
They are currently popping up all over the country. For example, you’ll be able to find them in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest in London on various weekends from the end of September. There are Repair Cafes in Kent, Berkshire, Manchester, Oxfordshire, West Sussex and Wales – you can find most of the details online via the Repair Café website. As the phenomenon grows and more people become interested in repairing, rather than recycling or throwing away, it’s likely that even more of these Repair Cafes will appear.
The Repair Café marks a new approach to the way that we treat the items that we buy. It is hoped that, by showing people how to carry out repairs themselves, we will come to value the items that we buy more. The idea is that we start to move away from wasteful consumerism and a disposable mindset towards something more considerate, long-term and environmentally friendly instead.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley