Repair Cafés: soon celebrating its 10th birthday

What a great idea: repairing instead of just tossing in the bin!  Have you heard of a Repair Café, or been to one? No? Well then it’s time you learned more about them.

Who had the crazy idea to invent Repair Cafés?

The concept of Repair Cafés has been around for 10 years in the Netherlands. Who invented it? It’s the brainchild of Martine Postma, a Dutch environmental activist and former journalist, and was launched in May 2009.

The idea came to Belgium 7 years ago: in September 2012, the 1st Repair Café opened in Ixelles!

Repair Cafés: they’re spreading like wildfire

Repair Cafés are growing more and more in Belgium. This enthusiasm is further intensified as part of the numerous initiatives launched by Villes en Transition (Transition Towns).

What if I want to open one in my neighbourhood? The steps are easy enough… the hardest part will be finding volunteers. There’s a starter kit available on the Repair Cafés website.

How does it work?

The principle of Repair Cafés is to “fight against wastefulness and mass waste production by repairing your broken or damaged items.”

Who volunteers?

Retirees, hobbyists, students… anyone who loves to tinker and share his or her knowledge. With a good amount of creativity and patience.

So, why go?  

There are many reasons why users should visit a Repair Café:

  1. To avoid scrapping devices that still work and don’t require major repairs
  2. Repairs are immediate and cheap
  3. You receive maintenance advice (because, sometimes, the issue is related to misuse).
  4. After-sales services charge exorbitantly high prices, hold on to your device for a long time or… just don’t repair at all.
  5. It’s in my town or really close to where I live

What can I get repaired? Can I repair it myself?

You can watch as it’s being repaired and work together with the repairer. To learn what is repairable and how it works, ask! It all depends on the volunteers and ranges from one Repair Café to another.

Here are some “workshop” (and repair) options:

  • Sewing: repairs, hems, buttons, zippers, etc.
  • IT: computers, printers
  • Electronics: small and medium electronics (anything portable)
  • Wood/toys/trinkets
  • Bikes, etc.

How do I pay?

Repair Cafés work according to a voluntary donation system. The money that you give them is used to rent the space, buy the equipment needed to repair your items, offer snacks to the brave volunteers.

Do I need to make an appointment?

You don’t need to make an appointment but, based on the concept’s success, expect to wait… especially since Repair Cafés are usually only offered monthly. You’ll receive a queuing number when you arrive. Volunteers are around for several hours, so you’re more than likely to have your turn.

Est-ce que  j’en ai un au coin de ma rue ?

The Repair Café map is available on the official website. There are dozens in Belgium and new ones are opening regularly.

Did you know? We even have a Usi handover point combined with a Repair Café: “Quatre-Quarts” in Court-Saint-Etienne. You can both pick up items rented from usitoo.be and have items repaired… the Repair Café is one Saturday morning a month, and there’s a bike workshop every Saturday morning.

Not everything can be repaired!

Shocking but true, some items aren’t meant to be repaired. Some, for example, are impossible to open up. You’ve probably heard about obsolescence… planned or not.

This is something you’ll notice more now when buying a toy, lamp, or coffee machine… are the engine and/or internal mechanisms accessible?

In the vast majority of cases, the device is repairable. And, through their experience, volunteers know the frequently occurring issues and how to fix them.

What if you drop your waffle maker the night before Anna’s birthday and you either don’t have time to fix it or it breaks beyond repair? Rent one (or 2) from Usitoo (while you wait to visit a Repair Café or recycling centre). Many other household appliances, in perfect working order, are also available so that you’re ready to cook for that birthday party.

Repairing instead of discarding, what an amazing philosophy!

Ready to take the step towards repairing instead of destruction? You can find tutorials and diagrams to do the repairs on your own and a list of stores for finding spare parts on several websites such as Ifixit.com.

You need good tools to repair your devices. Renting them from Usitoo is always a smart idea!  Especially since some tools are only used once or twice a year. In the DIY section of our catalogue, you’ll find screwdrivers, drills, etc., plus the equipment needed to ensure your safety (such as safety goggles).

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