International Repair Day: get fixing
By BEL JACOBS
E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams, threatening to turn into a problem of unmanageable proportions. Every year, we generate 40 million tonnes of e-waste, the equivalent of throwing away 800 laptops a second. The average lifecycle of a mobile phone is just 21 months; on average, each one of us will own 40 phones in a lifetime and 85 per cent of of them will end in landfill, degrading and poisoning the earth.
But what can we do, when most of us don’t have a clue what a screwdriver is, let alone how to fix a mobile phone? Launched in 2013, social enterprise The Restart Project was born out of frustration with the modern throwaway culture that surrounds us and the waste it leaves behind. In small, friendly ‘Restart Parties’, the Project brings together community members to share skills, lend a hand and just feel a bit more confident about dismantling (and re-mantling) the toaster. Last October, members of the Open Repair Alliance - which includes Restart - launched an International Repair Day in 2017, a Restart Party on a global scale. The second day takes place, on October 20th 2018, with over 100 community repair events, from New Zealand to Argentina, celebrating the power of community repair to prevent waste and share skills.
“Repair saves money, creates local jobs, and prevents waste; past generations knew this,” says Janet Gunter, Education Lead and Restart Project Co-founder. “We are absolutely drowning in waste, and feeling frustrated with throw-away products. But we need to regain our ‘repair muscle’ - both in terms of DIY repairs and in knowing how to seek out professionals. We also need to buy better, more repairable products and think in cost-per-year instead of the sticker price.
Why don’t people fix their own stuff anymore? “Mostly fear or lack of confidence, combined with the allure of throwaway, cheap products,” says Gunter. “But it’s not all on the individual. There are higher-level barriers too, like lack of access to affordable spare parts and repair manuals as well as bad product design.”
Profit-making companies obviously gain if we chuck away a mixer after two years and buy another one. The Restart Project’s response? A campaign to defend our "Right to Repair” in the UK together with allies in Europe, inspired by the strong US campaign, focusing on issues such as wider access to spare parts and better product design so that things last longer and are easier to fix. Repair Day shines a light on all of this.
At the same time, the work of local repair shops - a dying breed - is highlighted. Want to take part in Repair Day but don’t fancy a workshop? Simply take something to be fixed to a local shop, watch a craftsman at work and share the repair online.
And it’s not just about heavy metal and domestic appliances. Clothes reuse charity TRAID are holding a series of Repair Cafes where experts will help Londoners mend clothes so they can be worn them again. “Producing so many clothes places unsustainable demands on precious resources, from water to land, and repair is a practical way to wear our clothes for longer,” says Sarah Klymkiw from TRAID. “As design and craft skills get eroded from the curriculum, haptic skills essential for any tactile process like dentistry and surgery are being lost. It would be great opportunity to get London repairing again.”
What’s Gunter’s dream for Repair Day? “That it’s no longer needed, that products are made to last, and that people repair by default. But, in the meantime, we’d love to see Repair Day connect tinkerers, green-minded people, educators, small businesses and larger companies like those selling parts and tools. And we’d love to see politicians and policymakers champion pro-repair policies, as good for the economy and the planet.”