Volunteers fixing throwaway culture

April 29, 2021 BY

A repair cafe volunteer with a satisfied customer. Photo: SUPPLIED

A REPAIR café based in Highton is challenging throwaway culture by preventing up to 1,500 kilograms of household items from ending up in landfill.

The concept of repair cafes began in Amsterdam in 2009 and is now believed to have grown to around 2,000 locations worldwide including Highton, Ocean Grove and Anglesea.

Michelle Walker and Claire Ziegler, along with members of St Luke’s Uniting Church environmental action group, were inspired to open the Highton location following the popular documentary War on Waste which featured a repair café in Sydney.

In less than four years a team of 20 handy volunteers has fixed more than 700 items likely to otherwise end up in landfill.

Items including toys, bikes, household appliances and clothing are accepted at the café and fixed for free at a 75 per cent success rate.

The monthly repair sessions consist of at least two volunteers in apparel, up to four in electrical and two in general and mechanical with the team averaging up to 60 repairs per each workshop.

“It all happened very quickly, we already had a men’s shed and a sewing group, which we figured were the two main components of a repair café,” Ms Walker said.

“It’s just as much about reducing waste from ending up as landfill, and using less resources, as it is about valuing the skills of our older generation, in particular, and passing those on.”

Ms Walker said the quickest repair took a matter of seconds after it was discovered a chainsaw had its safety lock on while the longest fix took three hours of determination from volunteers unwilling to let a broken television defeat them.

“We get a lot of sentimental items,” she said.

“One time, a lady brought in a blanket that had belonged to her grandma and travelled all the way from England with her.

“She was very appreciative when we were able to repair it.”

The Highton repair café is always looking for volunteers to join the team and put their skills to the test in a fun community environment.

“One of our volunteers came on board after his daughter contacted us,” Ms Walker said.

“His wife had passed away and she thought it would be a good way to put his welding skills to use and become more involved in his community.

“The volunteers love what they do, and teaching others new skills.

“A volunteer once said to me that he can’t believe he gets to do this for free.”

The next repair café event will take place on May 8 at St Luke’s Uniting Church on Barrabool Road, Highton.

To find out more contact [email protected]

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