A bit more then a month ago, as part of our Zero Waste Camp, we had organised a Repair Cafe. A Repair Cafe is a meeting place where the community comes together—people who have things that need fixing, meet others who know how to carry out repairs, and an exchange is carried out based on a solidarity economy. The first Repair Cafe was conceived in Amsterdam, after which thousands of similar setups have cropped up all over the world since then, fighting the throwaway culture, one repair at at time. It is sometimes nostalgic to think of the good old days when people were quite handy and could fix any issue in their households; but let’s face it, we will not be able to know how to repair everything, and maybe our friends or relatives cannot help us with all the necessary fixes either. That is why a repair cafe is a perfect informal place where exchanges can take place, a space when we can help each other within a community.
For our first Repair Cafe, we set up with four stations, one for clothes repair, one for bicycle repair, one more for electronic repair and one for upcycling materials (some of which were found objects during that morning’s clean up). The event was a great success and we managed to fix and create various items, thanks to the volunteers that came to help out at the event. We had Jane and Suzanne mending clothes and sharing tips, Bexy and Jethro at the electronic repair station, James from the Bicycling Advocacy Group repairing bicycles showing quick bicycle fixes, and Marta at the upcycling station.
All the repairs went really well, however the electronic session proved to be more difficult. It is not only the throwaway culture that repair cafes are meaning to tackle, but repairing has become a political act since manufacturers are persistently discouraging repairs to take place, with companies like Apple finding ways of monopolising the repair of their products and making it increasingly hard for repair shops and individuals to maintain their products. A case in point at our repair cafe, was Suz’s bread-making machine, that was manufactures in such a way that made it impossible to open without further damaging the casing of the appliance. This was an evident attempt for the producer to manufacture an appliance with no intention of making repairs available to the consumer, diminishing the consumer’s power when a breakdown occurs, with disposal of the damaged product being the only option.
The future is however not all bleak. There has been a growing movement of repairers and advocates who are fighting for rights to repair, especially when it comes to electronic equipment. Also an open source culture has led to information being shared on repairs and fixes, and their are more actions sprouting like repair cafes and Transition Town initiatives.These are all means through which we can reimagine what a post-capitalist society would look like. There are also companies that are focusing on creating fair goods that ensure repair and circularity in their production, such as Fair Phones and Mud Jeans that offer alternatives for repair instead of having a linear production process which results in waste generation and inefficient use of resources.
To continue support this concept of circularity and reduction of waste generation, FoE Malta has taken a commitment to continue hosting Repair Cafes at the Green Resource Centre.
Video of your Zero Waste Camp and Repair Cafe produced by Denise Brigniani
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