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Volunteer-run repair cafés helping our planet

Words by Smiley Team

Fans of the popular BBC show Repair Shop might have a picture in their mind when they hear the term repair cafe – but for many, these eco friendly spots are hidden gems.

Repair cafés are free meeting places centred around repairing things together, and they are great for teaching people skills and bringing old items back to life. In a typical café, you’ll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need, on family heirlooms, crockery, clothes, bikes or even electrical appliances.

Repair cafés are run by expert volunteers, equipped with repair skills in all kinds of fields, and there are 2,200 across the world. They're also great for sustainability – encouraging people from all walks of life to learn how to repair things instead of throwing them away.

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Across the globe, we throw away 2.12 billion tons of waste every year and many of the things we buy are binned within 6 months. 

Repair cafés teach visitors to use raw or recycled materials to repair and improve items that have much more life in them, to reduce the amount of household objects that are needlessly wasted.

What's thought to be the first repair café was created by Martine Postma in Amsterdam, on October 18, 2009, with sustainability at the forefront of her mind.

'In more than 30 countries'

Now, they're in more than 30 countries, giving people access to free repair advice and tools.

A new mobile café has recently opened up in Kent thanks to grant funding that supported their first event, and they hope that they too can contribute to the growing movement and reduce waste.

“Our volunteers were happy to look at small and medium electrical appliances, furniture and wooden objects, bicycles, jewellery, clothing, textiles and IT that required repair”, says Jenny Packer of the newly established Sevenoaks repair café.

“The café will be held on the second Saturday of each month, (except for August and December) and we hope that we can repair many treasured or practical items and keep them out of landfill.”

Visitors are able to bring items in to be repaired by the experts, but are encouraged to sit with the volunteer who works on their item to learn more about restoration or mending.

In turn, the ripple effect means that more and more people will be able to mend things at home and change the throwaway attitude that has a hold over modern day living.

“We were pleased to fund this project made popular by the much-loved TV show the Repair Shop. Everyone who watches the programme knows the joy of seeing treasured or useful items brought back to life," says Josephine McCartney, chief executive of the Kent Community Foundation who granted the funding for the newest repair cafe.

“Projects like these bring many benefits to the community including keeping items out of landfill, promoting a culture of repair, and supporting social inclusion.”

Inspired to act?

GET INVOLVED: Find out if you have a local repair café on the official website

DONATE: Funds donated to the official repair café go to their Foundation – find out more


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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