Repair cafés' popularity on the increase, says report

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

A new report has identified that repair cafés around the globe – places where members of the public can find help to fix broken products rather than throw them away – are rapidly growing, with over 41% of cafés surveyed established for one year or less.

The survey, established by the Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) in partnership with the Repair Café International Foundation, was distributed to all the repair cafés in the Foundation’s network, and received 317 responses from all over the world including Canada, Australia and Switzerland, with the most responses coming from repair cafés in the Netherlands and Germany.

Over 90% of those that completed the survey; the majority of whom were founders or organisers of repair cafes, stated that they participate at their repair cafés to encourage others to live more sustainably and encourage others to repair.

The majority of the repair cafés surveyed are reported to have been established by an individual or group of motivated individuals, meeting on a monthly basis. The most common products brought for repair are small kitchen appliances, household appliances and lamps or lighting.

“It’s an eye-opening statistic that nearly two thirds of items brought into the cafés are repaired,” said Professor Martin Charter, director of the Centre for Sustainable Design at UCA. “Many people want advice or help to fix electronic goods, so appliances and other types of electrical and electronic equipment are often taken to repair cafes, but many also bring clothing.

“In this sense, the cafés aren’t just for repairs, but also a place for upcycling and modifications, reducing the amount of products that end up in landfill; and importantly, repair cafes have a community component bringing people together from all sorts of age groups and backgrounds.”

The global survey comes at a time where numbers of repair cafés globally have hit over 1030 and follows the Centre for Sustainable Design’s previous survey of repair cafés in 2014 which is reported to have been the first survey in the world on this topic.

“Our findings show that the repair café movement is continuing to gain momentum the world over,” continued Professor Charter. “We now have 23 in the UK - we established a repair café in Farnham last year in collaboration with Transition Town Farnham and it’s already helped to divert around 400kg from landfill.”

The Farnham Repair Café has developed a philosophy of “sharing repair”, which encourages owners of broken products to participate in the repair experience. This approach is now being extended with the launch of a Repair Wiki site, developed by a Farnham Repair Café volunteer which aims to share tips and lessons learnt on the repair of products.

“The life of consumer products is becoming shorter and getting our broken domestic gadgets fixed is increasingly difficult,” added Professor Charter. “Skilled repairers are not easy to find and it can be costly and inconvenient. Repair cafés help to intercept that trend.”

The repair café movement began in Amsterdam in 2010 and provides an opportunity for people with practical skills to share what they know about fixing. To download the full global repair café report from The Centre for Sustainable Design, please visit:

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