17 Jan, 2021

Coast “fix it” cafés reduce landfill and keep skills alive

Repairing, fixing and mending have all made a comeback as awareness grows about the impact of our throw-away society on the planet.

 

Across the Sunshine Coast, an increasing number of fix it type cafes are popping up and old school tinkerers who repair everything from garden furniture to bicycles are busier than ever.

Australians produce 540kg of household waste per person per year - that’s more than 10kg per person per week!  Currently only 55% of that waste is being recycled. But the “take, make, dispose” model of consumption is slowly shifting towards a circular economy where old items are given new life through upcycling, reuse or repair.

Old school skills have long been touted as one of the solutions to the planet’s growing waste problem and local repair cafés are booming. In fact, you can get just about anything fixed if connect with the right person … or even learn to repair it yourself.

Valuing what we have

Maleny’s Fix-it Café is the region’s longest running fix-it group now in its ninth year at the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre. Skilled volunteer repairers come together twice a month to fix bicycles, furniture and non-electrical household items as well as mend clothing.

Coordinator Jim Straker, who spent most of his career in waste management, said that we all have a role to play in reducing the volume of items we send to landfill.

“I saw how much was thrown out that could have been fixed or repaired and given another life,” he said. “I grew up in the country where you would repair what you could or put things away in case you could find a practice use for it later,” he said.

“Fix it café is a simple concept. People bring items to be repaired and they may even learn how to repair them. Repairing instead of dumping those treasured items helps us become aware of the value of what we have and contributes to a more sustainable community.”

The Fix-it Café is seeking additional fixers to supplement their current pool of volunteers and offer new services so if you’re handy or crafty, this may an ideal opportunity to get involved in a fun activity to support our local circular economy.

 A wheelbarrow on which the tyre was changed by the handy folks at Maleny’s Fix-it Café.

Two bicycles that were refurbished and given a new life by the Maleny Fix-it team before being sold.

NightQuarter’s RepairLab promotes a circular economy

The region’s newest venue, NightQuarter has launched RepairLab, a dedicated space that promotes a circular economy through community workshops on repairing, recycling and reusing furniture, clothes, jewellery, bicycles and more. 

NightQuarter itself is made from about 60% recycled materials including former Queensland Rail shipping containers and recycled turf from tennis courts. Co-founder Michelle Christoe said that RepairLab, a partnership with Living Smart, is an extension of the company’s sustainability-first ethos.

“We believe we should all incorporate the principles of repairing, reusing and recycling into our everyday lives. RepairLab aims to encourage the community to embrace repairing by learning more about what’s possible, teaching new skills and creating new pathways to incubate talent in that area,” Michelle said.

“We are losing a lot of the old skills, along with the reusing and recycling mindset. But I think people are interested in exploring these concepts more and hungry to learn.”

Keeping skills alive

Organisations such as men’s sheds, Country Women’s Association and various Boomerang Bags groups in the region are already playing an active role in keeping traditional skills alive.

The Mend-it Café launched in September 2020 and the clothes mending service is so popular that it will increase to two days per month in 2021. Held on the first Saturday and second Monday of each month from 9am – 12pm at the Beerwah CWA Hall, it emerged through a collaboration between Beerwah CWA, Beerwah Boomerang Bags and Glasshouse Boomerang Bags. The group is about connection as much as getting things mended, according to Community Development Worker Jody Blackburn.

“The Mend-it Café aims to share and preserve sewing skills, assist in alleviating financial hardship and reducing clothing waste. It is also an opportunity for people to connect with each other, addressing potential isolation and in turn creating a resilient and more connected community,” Jody said.

Volunteers at work at the Mend-it Café at Beerwah.

This year, a new Repair Café will launch at Caloundra Community Centre as part of the  international Repair Café organisation which diverts more than 420,000kg of waste from landfill a year. Repair Cafes are all about repairing things together and learning new skills. 

The brainchild of local Dorothy Gillingham, the Caloundra café is expected to cover jewellery, furniture, sewing and mending, and some woodworking. Repair Café will be held on the last Saturday of the month from 9:30am – 12pm, starting 30 January 2021. Anyone interested in volunteering their repair skills can contact Dorothy on 0450 062 543.

Learning to fix things – the Repair Manifesto

You’ve heard of Wikipedia for information but have you heard of iFixit, the wiki page for fixing things? iFixit is the world’s largest free repair manual, a community of people helping each other to fix stuff. 

Access free repair manuals for Macs and PCs, tablets, phones, cars and trucks, cameras, game consoles and more. More than 68,000 free manuals across 32,000 devices have already been uploaded by the iFixit community. 

Often, devices are thrown away because of the sheer cost of repairs or the inability to fix them ourselves. The aim of iFixit is to enable us to take back our right to repair and double the useful life of devices we consume. The iFixit Repair Manifesto has been shared by millions of people to call for the right to repair electronic equipment, access reasonably priced parts and turn consumers into contributors.

Repair Manifesto

Before you throw it away…

Next time you think about throwing something away, instead ask yourself:

  • Can this be repaired?
  • Can I learn a new skill so this item can be fixed?
  • Can this item be repurposed or upcycled?

There are many other ways to get involved. If you have skills that could be put to use and a  few hours of time per month, get in touch with one of the organisations below to see how you can help. You may also be able to contribute old fabric, tools, sewing machines or other items.

“There are so many different ways that people can become involved in these programs that don’t really take a lot of effort but the benefits can be immense to other people and the community,” says Michelle Christoe.

Where to get things fixed or learn new repair skills

Caloundra Repair Café
Last Saturday of the month, 9.30am – 12pm
Caloundra Community Centre
Volunteer repairers wanted – call Dorothy 0450 062 543

Maleny Fix It Café
2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month, 9am – 2pm
Maleny Neighbourhood Centre
Small repairs to clothing, minor bicycle repairs, wooden furniture, wall hangings, small items.
Volunteer fixers wanted – call Jim 5494 3229

Mend-it Café
1st Saturday and 2nd Monday of the month, 9am – 12pm
Beerwah CWA Hall
General mending, fixing tears, sewing on buttons, learning sewing skills, 

Repair Lab, NightQuarter
Regular workshops on reusing, repairing and recycling. Check out the website for the upcoming program.

Erik the Ready, Palmwoods
Every Thursday from 9am to 12pm
Homegrown café (weather permitting)
Household items, clocks, repairing garden tools, sharpening, some electrical appliance repairs and more.

Fix It Poppy, Buddina
Home based service
Children’s playground equipment, tool sharpening, repairing timber garden furniture and garden features, deck repairs, fixing garden tools and more.

Bicycle repairs

Men’s Sheds

Most men’s sheds run programs where you can learn new skills but do not offer a repair service.

Do you know a repair café or someone who fixes things not on this list? Let us know in the comments below or email the Living Smart team.

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