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Here’s a great idea for waste diversion: repair cafes, where people bring things that need fixing to volunteers who like to fix things, and to teach others how to fix them too. This is the concept of the fast growing Dutch Repair Cafes:

“What do you do with a chair, one leg is loose? With a toaster that does not work anymore? With a wool sweater where moth holes in it? Discard? No way!

Fix them in the Repair Cafe

Repair shops are freely accessible meetings that revolve around (together) repair. At the location where the Repair Café is held tools and materials is available to all possible repairs. On clothing, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, toys etc. Also repair experts are available, such as electricians, seamstresses, carpenters and bicycle.”

According to the New York Times, there are now more than 30 Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, including a Repair Cafe bus.

Repair Cafes are based on a Repair Manifesto, which “opposes throwaway culture and celebrates repair as the new recycling….

In the hope of spurring a reappraisal of repair, Platform21 wrote and published a manifesto describing the benefits of fixing things and calling upon designers and consumers to break the chain of throwaway thinking.
Throwaway thinking, a culture in itself almost, is designed to cater to short term needs of both industry, politics and society. But by being very successful at short term effects it has lost track of the innumerable and rich possibilities that lie ahead if durable notions of design in general, and repair especially, are reconsidered and implemented.”

The Repair Cafe Foundation encourages community groups to start their own Repair Cafes:

“We offer free:

a detailed information;
tailored advice;
poster and flyer material;
publicity through our national network;
visit any of the Window Bus, with tools and repair experts on board.
the possibility of a website to keep up.
All services of the Foundation Repair Cafe are free”

In Toronto, Evergreen has a somewhat similar concept at the Brickworks’ Bikeworks, where people can learn from volunteers how to fix their own bicycles, using a full set of professional tools and donated parts. This is an idea that should definitely spread.

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