Community repair: enabling repair as part of the movement towards a circular economy
reportposted on 20.11.2018, 11:39 by Christine Cole, Alex Gnanapragasam
Repair in the context of the circular economy The growth in sales of household electrical and electronic equipment in recent years, combined with faster product obsolescence, has resulted in waste electrical and electronic equipment becoming the fastest growing waste stream globally (Baldé, Wang, Kuehr, & Huisman, 2015). Many products develop simple faults which are challenging for the amateur to repair; this quite often results in replacement products being purchased and equipment with small faults being disposed of, or hoarded (Green Alliance, 2015; WRAP, 2011a). It is within this context that innovative approaches to repair are emerging in the UK, with communitybased organisations focused on enabling consumers to attempt to repair a variety of products including clothing and electrical equipment. Access to information, spare parts and tools is being made available by companies like iFixit, providing consumers with the resources they need to attempt their own repairs. Some consumers, however, lack the skills, knowledge or confidence to attempt repairs, even when the resources are available. This report focuses on the work of the London-based Restart Project, who organise community-based pop-up repair events to assist these consumers. Volunteers acting as "Repair Coaches" at these Restart Parties offer support and guidance to participants, enabling them to attempt to repair items that they may not have had the knowledge, skills or confidence to undertake previously. This report presents the findings from a survey with 99 participants undertaken at Restart Parties in late 2016. Key points to emerge are: • Many people (45%) cannot name a commercial repairer that they trust. The lack of knowledge of existing repair ventures and lack of trust in commercial repairers is a key issue to address. • Very few respondents were “extremely” confident in undertaking repairs at home (8%), many more were “somewhat” or “moderately” confident (33%) and 48% were only “slightly” or “not at all” confident. • Many of the respondents reported that they have previously attempted some kind of repairs at home (56%). However, they report varying levels of success with previous repairs and cite knowledge, skills and confidence as major barriers to further attempts at repair. It is these very barriers that The Restart Project addresses. • Respondents report that they are avid seekers of reuse options for their products when they no longer require them, with 82% reporting they looked for people to reuse items they no longer had a use for. • Small electrical and electronic items were not recycled by as many of the respondents as other types of household items. The Restart Project appears to have a role to play as ‘environmental educator’ in inspiring additional recycling within the community. Throughout the research, participants said they particularly valued the social aspect of the Repair Parties. Feedback shows that there are high satisfaction levels with the events, even when repairs to the objects participants have brought along have been unsuccessful. Working in a social environment, meeting others with shared interests and learning or passing on repair skills in this way appears to offer considerable potential to empower communities to attempt repairs and thereby extend the lifetime of products. The repair network is complex and fragmented. Availability, location and consumer confidence in local repair networks, together with knowledge and skills are key issues that have emerged from this study. 4 Informal community-based enterprises such as The Restart Project appear ideally placed to develop local responses to the gap in trust of existing networks revealed by this research, and they have an important role to play in contributing to the circular economy.
Restart Project, London
- Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering