Repair Cafes: The Community Concept Going Global

What started as a single event in Amsterdam has grown into a global phenomenon, with cafes across 42 countries. So what exactly is a Repair Cafe, and does it signal a shift in the collective consciousness?

The planet has a problem. Waste is on the rise, particularly electronic waste: it’s the fastest-growing stream, comprising 79% of overall toxic waste globally. Society has leaned into the convenience of throwaway culture, with repair skills being lost across generations in favor of simply replacing items when they break.

When former journalist Martine Postma created the concept of the Repair Cafe back in 2009, it was simply an experiment to see if the idea could work. The concept was simple: people who needed repairs would bring their items to the cafe, where those with the necessary skills would fix the items for free, or at a low cost. And luckily, the idea took off.

Fast-forward to today, where a global network of Repair Cafes are thriving. The Repair Café Foundation reports over 2,200 active cafes in 46 countries worldwide, with a significant number across Europe. The collaborative environment has proven to be a hit, and understandably so: it harnesses the human spirit, where community and kindness meets sustainability. These cafes save money, reduce electronic waste and create connection amongst people who have a genuine love for the planet. They are making a real difference, too – a 2021 study found that Repair Cafes in the Netherlands alone diverted over 800 tons of e-waste landfill in just 2 years. And those are just the trackable results. A 2023 survey by the Repair Cafe International revealed that 72% of Repair Cafe participants reported feeling more confident in repairing items themselves after attending an event, which hints at the longer-lasting effects of the skills shared.

The Repair Cafes have seen a spotlight recently, and the interest looks like it will only follow an upwards trend. The popularity signals a reason to be optimistic. As generations are becoming more aware of the dangers the planet faces, there is a collective shift towards more conscious living. People are seeking connection and ways to nurture the planet, and the Repair Cafes bring both in abundance. Looking forward, the future continues to look bright. In March 2023, the European Comission adopted a new proposal to promote goods known as the Right to Repair. This aims to make repairs more accessible for consumers, even past the warranty date, with easier and cheaper ways to fix items.


So next time something breaks, why not harness the spirit of the cafes and look to repair it before you replace it? There might even be a community in a Repair Cafe near you ready to help.

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