Dutch ‘Repair Cafes’ keep stuff out of the trash by fixing it for free
In the Netherlands, there are more than 30 “Repair Cafes” — groups that meet once or twice a month to repair (for free!) clothes and gizmos and tools that might otherwise be discarded. The New York Times visited the original Repair Cafe, which began two and a half years ago, and found that people want to keep their stuff — even cheap stuff, like H&M skirts. They just don’t know how to mend it themselves:
“This cost 5 or 10 euros,” about $6.50 to $13, [Sigrid Deters] said, adding that she had not mended it herself because she was too clumsy. “It’s a piece of nothing, you could throw it out and buy a new one. But if it were repaired, I would wear it.”
The group repairs electronics, too — everything from big-ticket items like vacuums and washing machines to the little gadgets that go haywire, like irons, toaster ovens, and coffee pots.
Repair Cafes are mainly driven by the time and efforts of volunteers who pool their skills to fix what needs fixing. But the foundation that oversees these projects has also raised $525,000 from the Dutch government, foundations, and small donors, the Times reports.
This all happening in a country that only puts a teeny portion of its municipal waste (less than 3 percent) in landfills. Who are these dedicated weirdos that are going above and beyond that already insanely good behavior?
Marjanne van der Rhee, a Repair Cafe volunteer who hands out data collection forms and keeps the volunteers fortified with coffee, said: “Different people come in. With some, you think, maybe they come because they’re poor. Others look well-off, but they are aware of environmental concerns. Some seem a little bit crazy.”
Crazy, or crazy like a fox? And can we get something like this going in America? I have a broke-down coffee grinder that’s been sitting on top of my kitchen cabinet for like a year.
An Effort to Bury a Throwaway Culture One Repair at a Time, The New York Times.