Image Credit: Kilian Seiler
Repair Cafés have become hugely popular in the last few years in the UK, having been almost unknown 5 years ago. But just what is a repair café, how do you use them and where can you find one that is near you?
A repair café is a place where you can take ordinary household items that are no longer working, or that have become damaged and you can find someone who will be able to repair it for you at no cost.
It is a free community space where everyone is welcome to ask for help in mending an item or can volunteer to help with repairs. The sorts of items which may be repaired include clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, computers, bicycles, crockery and toys amongst others.
The repairers at a repair café are volunteers, so they are not paid for their work. They are usually not professional repair technicians, but ordinary people who are prepared to have a go at mending anything. They may very well have a wide experience of repairing their own domestic items at home, for example. People experienced at sewing may offer to repair clothing and textiles.
Image Credit: Jack Douglass
The repair café may also have a collection of tools and equipment that can be borrowed if you wish to repair something yourself but do not have the necessary implements, such as a sewing machines, screwdrivers or a soldering iron.
In fact some repair cafés have even invested in owning a 3D printer which can be used to make a new component where the old one is beyond repair.
At some repair cafés you may be encouraged to repair the item yourself under the supervision of one of the repairers. Passing on the skills and knowledge to repair items is another of the aims of a repair café, allowing you to build up your confidence to repair items for yourself in the future.
Although the service is free, donations are always welcome at your local repair café, to help with the costs of hiring the venue and purchasing the equipment that the café owns.
And yes, you can often get a cup of coffee or tea at the café as well!
The first repair café was opened in Amsterdam in 2009 by journalist Martine Postma. Postma was already a champion of sustainability in The Netherlands. In 2011 she founded the Repair Café International Foundation, to provide support to repair cafés around the world and encourage groups to open their own groups.
There are now cafes in countries around the world, including the UK, Ireland, Germany, Canada, The US, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, Latvia, Scandinavia and many other countries in Europe.
In the UK the concept of repairing items has been brought to public attention by the BBC TV show The Repair Shop. While the TV show demonstrates the skill of some of the UK’s to experts in the restoration of historic and valuable items, the average repair café focuses on the more everyday items such as kettles and toaster, sheets and clothing.
Image Credit: Blaz Erzetic
Repair cafes are held in all sorts of places, from church halls to community centres, empty shops to libraries. The café is usually held on one day as an event rather than being somewhere that is open all the time.
If you have an item that you would like to be repaired, it is a good idea to contact them first to find out when the next repair café will be held, if you need to book and if your item is the sort of thing that they can repair.
To find your nearest Repair Café, visit repaircafe.org/en/visit/. We are also including repair cafes in our own recycling in your area pages.
When you repair an item rather than simply taking it to your local recycling centre (or worse still putting it in the bin), you are reducing the amount energy used in manufacturing a new item.
Repair cafes allow you to use your much loved items for longer, allow repair skills to be passed down the generations and help to reduce the amount of materials used in making new items. They can also help you to save money.
So next time that you rip a favourite shirt or your trusty kettle stops working, why not see if it can be repaired instead of just buying a new one?
In the last couple of decades it has become common, in particular for electronic items, that these products are actually designed to prevent users from repairing an item, meaning that they have to replace a faulty item, even where only a small component is broken.
Moves are now afoot to introduce “right to repair“ legislation in both the US and UK, and the adoption of this type of law will encourage people to learn to mend items themselves. This can only be a good thing for the environment, and also means that the passing on of skills at Repair Cafés will become all the more important.
If you can't find a repair cafe near you, here is a video to explain just how easy it is to set up your own repair cafe. In this video, the team behind Manchester's first Repair Café share some tips on how to set one up.
Visit your local repair cafe today!