A pop-up repair cafe in Lake Macquarie, NSW, is teaching locals how to live sustainably by repairing broken items that would otherwise go to landfill. Community-led repair cafes like this are popping up all over Australia — so why are they growing in popularity? Let’s take a look!
What Is The ‘Too Good To Waste’ Campaign?
How often do you look at a previously valuable, broken item and think — “it’s too good to waste, but how do I repair it?”. Well, the passionate volunteers at the Warners Bay Sustainable Neighbourhood Group, in Lake Macquarie, are on a mission to make it easier for people in the community to have their items repaired, as opposed to throwing them in landfill.
To promote the “Too Good To Waste” event series, the Repair Cafe at Warners Bay Theatre will be open several times in the next few months, where residents can bring in items to have them repaired — free of charge!
“The aim is to divert waste away from landfill and allow community members to think about repairing old items as opposed to buying new ones,” said Sustainable Neighbourhood Alliance Leader, Samantha Doove.
Image: Sustainable Neighbourhoods / Lake Macquarie
What Types Of Items Can Be Repaired?
Samantha Doove and the Sustainable Neighbourhood Alliance are bringing back Lake Macquarie’s Repair Cafe after a successful event in 2020 (volunteers mended over 100 items).
The Repair Cafe wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of locals; many of whom are experts on repairing textiles, furniture, garden tools, and electronics. “Clothing items, textiles, small electrical appliances, toys, small furniture, garden tools, and even your mobile phone can be brought in. Our repairers will help fix them,” said Ms Doove.
The Repair Cafe is also a great place to check out amazing, historical items and learn new skills. “In the past we’ve fixed fringed leather jackets, an old Mickey Mouse toy and a chair built in the 1900s – the owner was an elderly woman and her husband had made it after the war,” Ms Doove said.
Image: Dennis Archibald / Novo News
Community-Orientated Repair Workshops
From March 13th, the Repair Cafe will be open on a few separate occasions, with other workshops being held across the city. These events are open to absolutely everyone, and there are small activities to keep kids occupied, too.
On the 23rd of March, a workshop to learn how to sew upcycled reusable veggie bags was held at Belmont Library. Participants learned how to make drawstring veggie bags from old curtain fabric and t-shirt cording!
“Events like this help connect the community and provide a space for people to share and learn really important repair skills, which have been partially lost over generations,” said Lake Macquarie Council Manager Community Partnerships, Andrew Bryant. They're calling on anyone with repair experience to lend a hand. It all helps to drive down landfill.
Image: Erin / The Rogue Ginger
Why Are ‘Repair Cafes’ Growing In Popularity?
In our society, it has become increasingly acceptable to “chuck it out and buy a new one”. In many cases, it’s quicker and cheaper to replace the item than to get it fixed. Cheaply-made items are not made to last, hence our growing waste crisis.
The Repair Cafe movement began in Amsterdam, around 2009. Repair Cafes represent the antithesis of our modern society, which is based on individualism and the excessive consumption of cheap goods.
Repair Cafes help us to value not only the goods themselves, but also the skilled people who made or repaired those goods! It’s about reviving lost skill sets, reinforcing community-orientated living, reducing unnecessary waste, and challenging our deeply ingrained throwaway culture. Sometimes, all a broken item needs is a bit of time and care.
Looking to find a Repair Cafe near you? Repair Cafe is a resource that helps you to find local Repair Cafes in Australia or abroad. There are 50+ Repair Cafes currently operating across Australia — find one near you! For more information about upcoming events in Lake Macquarie, and how you can get involved, check out Repair It Lake Mac.
We love sharing examples of sustainable, community-led initiatives! To read about more examples just like this, check out our Eco News category and the blogs below.