TSitting in a plastic box, the Lonely Parts Club sits along a few tired-looking tea jars, a slick inkjet printer and a line of “rescue roasters.” The assortment of tech is neatly stacked on the shelves of the Fixing Factory, where volunteers in bright orange aprons talk to people seeking to give their machines a second life.
The convenience store in Camden, north London, which officially opened last month after operating in “stealth mode” without publicity since September, is at the forefront of a consumer revolution.
While there has always been an antiques restoration market – given the recent dynamism of the BBC The Repair Shop and its King Charles veil – and most major urban streets have a place to repair expensive items such as cell phones, computers and appliances, a new wave of middlemen is setting their sights on salvage items. Cheaper daily like radios and juicers.
Share & Repair in Bath and Edinburgh Remaker and Re: Make Newport are just some of the organizations that have sprung up around the country working to prevent e-waste, or e-waste, from entering landfills. In Wales, the government is helping fund a scheme aimed at opening reform cafés in every community.
He also takes part in fixing pop-up events in Tooting, south London, says Dermot Jones, Fixing Factory project manager for the climate charity Possible.
“We’re having a consumer goods crisis…We’ve been used, for the past 40 years, to buy something that can’t be fixed and accept that as a kind of barter for being cheap.”
Part of the Fixing Factory plan is to show those who bring an item that they can easily fix it themselves. It’s often a myth, Jones says, that repairing an item takes longer and costs more to buy a new one. “We inspire people and surprise them with how easy it is to fix some things,” he says.
The project, which is funded by the National Lottery Climate Action Fund and the Center for Climate Change and Social Transformations, trained 11 youth and a number of other local volunteers. One of the fun things is finding local experts, for example, an 85-year-old ex-BBC engineer, who adapt their years of technological knowledge to come up with how to get into and then fix modern tools.
Jones says the project has had 90% success fixing easier items like toasters and other small kitchen appliances, but less success with laptops — about 60% have been fixed. He just fixed a digital radio worth over £100 at a 10p portion.
Bath’s Share & Repair says it has repaired more than 3,000 items in the five years since it opened, 60% of which are electrical or electronic gadgets, particularly kettles, toasters, radios and lamps. The project also lends household items and runs workshops on how to maintain your bike, use a sewing machine, or darn a jumper.
Outlets like these reflect a thriving global network of fans who share knowledge via YouTube videos, pop-up repair cafés and blogs, and a long British tradition of reusing vintage items dating back to WWII “do it and fix it” directives.
Currys, the UK’s largest retailer of electrical goods, expects the cost of living crisis to further accelerate this trend. It typically makes 860,000 repairs annually for laptops, televisions and phones, but it expects a 10% rise this year as customer budgets come under pressure. Refurbished electrical goods, which are testing their own website sale for the first time, are also in high demand.
However, one of the biggest obstacles to the reform movement is the fact that a lot of modern technology is not designed for reform. The leading online repair resource iFixit offers reviews about how gadgets can be repaired – criticizing, for example, Apple for its AirPods, which are built in such a way that not even a battery can be replaced.
Parts are often not provided, or they are expensive, and the cases may be closed tightly or their opening screws can only be accessed with oddly shaped tools not available at your local hardware store.
“It’s like an escape room in reverse,” Jones says. “In the old record player, you find arrows at the bottom of the case that indicate where to enter. These pins can now be covered with a sticker, rubber feet or they may be closed with a system of plastic clips that can break. It’s a challenge to get in sometimes.”
The time and ingenuity required to get into and evaluate a broken toaster, for example, means that once labor costs are taken into account, repairing it would not be economically viable. The solution, for now, is to teach people how to fix more things themselves and use volunteers.
Jones says training young people could be vital to the economy of the future, as an army of experts may be needed following the introduction of legislation that makes things easier and more cost-effective to fix.
Manufacturers of phones, tablets and laptops now face legal obligations to make it easier to repair and reuse their products, under the European Union’s recycling scheme to extend the life of products, as only 40% of e-waste in the region is believed to be recyclable.
The UK government’s version of these rules – the Right to Repair Regulations, which applies to products purchased from July 2021 onwards but will not take full effect until next summer – covers only a limited range of household electrical appliances, including washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators. and televisions.
Under the regulations, manufacturers are obligated to produce parts for a minimum of seven to 10 years and to enable repairs to be made using “commonly available tools.” They must also make maintenance and repair information available to professional repairers.
Small items such as laptops, cell phones, electric toothbrushes, headphones, phone chargers or toasters are not covered by UK regulations. Some manufacturers even make it difficult to get parts – they only sell them as part of expensive kits rather than individually.
While activists say the regulations are too weak to truly boost the market, they hope that Britain’s growing passion for reform will overcome government inaction and encourage the public to extend the life of their properties.