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Repair cafés lead change to throwaway culture


We live in an age where it’s not common to repair things when they break. Thanks to mass production and offshore cheap manufacturing, it’s seemingly easier, quicker, and cheaper to just replace the item, rather than seek a repair.

But change is in the water, with the growing popularity of ‘repair cafes’ which encourages a circular economy around fixing, reusing and recycling household items.

Locally, the Bower Reuse and Repair Centre in Sydney’s Marrickville is leading the trend, and now holds weekly repair sessions for bikes, furniture and electrical items.

Punters are encouraged to head along for free repairs to bikes, furniture and electrical items, and the co-op makes enough income to keep going via their on-site second hand shop.

Jade Herriman, Research Principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney, says that repair is a natural extension of understanding objects and materials, and a creative process that gives immense satisfaction. “Many of those who visit repair cafés become repairers,” she said.

“Our relationship with material objects has changed dramatically in the generations since wartime [when we] were told to “make do and mend”. Simple repairs – resoling a shoe, mending a dress or gluing the leg of a chair – became less common as the number of disposable goods grew beyond small items such as razors and pens to include clothing, furniture and electronics.

“Mending came to be seen as old fashioned and unnecessary, and cheap mass production meant that anything less than perfect could be thrown away and replaced.”

Indeed, Australian Bureau of Statistics paint a dire picture of preventable annual waste, with half a million tonnes of leather and textiles sent to landfill last year alone – some 10 times the amount that was reused or recycled.

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