Leave it to the Dutch, who throw away only 3 percent of their municipal waste into landfills, to come up with a socially appealing innovation that does even more to reduce waste: the neighborhood Repair Cafe! As described in today’s NYT, volunteers with a talent for fixing things come together several times a month to repair anyone’s broken household items for free. This includes lamps, irons, suitcases, toasters, coffee makers and even an electric organ on one occasion.
What began in a theater foyer has now moved to a community center and spawned similar Repair Cafes throughout the Netherlands. The Repair Cafe helps fixers with time on their hands connect with people who don’t have much money or personal skills to repair their broken household items. The whole enterprise saves people money, builds community and reduces gratuitous consumption.
Reporter Ilvy Nijokiktijien describes how the Repair Cafe idea got its start:
“In Europe, we throw out so many things,” said Martine Postma, a former journalist who came up with the concept after the birth of her second child led her to think more about the environment. “It’s a shame, because the things we throw away are usually not that broken. There are more and more people in the world, and we can’t keep handling things the way we do.
“I had the feeling I wanted to do something, not just write about it,” she said. But she was troubled by the question: “How do you try to do this as a normal person in your daily life?”