作者/ Jade Herriman
澳洲環保組織Bower Reuse and Repair Centre剛在雪梨西區開了澳洲第一間維修咖啡館，這家由群眾募資所開設的咖啡館，於每週不同時段為腳踏車、家具以及電子產品提供維修服務。
在維修咖啡館成功修復的品項清單很多：腳踏車、衣物、相機、行動電話、電腦、除草機、行李箱、燈具、烤麵包機、光碟播放機、微波爐 — 基本上，差不多所有你能帶去的東西都能修理。
現在人們對物質的觀念有著極大的變化，從老一輩的「能修就修」一直到現今的「壞了就丟」。簡易的修理 ─ 像是修補鞋子、縫補洋裝破洞、把斷了的椅子黏起來…都越來越少見。為了生活便利，用完就丟的觀念越來越深，從刮鬍刀、筆等小型用品一直延伸到服飾、傢俱以及電子產品。漸漸的，廉價大量生產使人們產生東西不夠好就該丟掉的觀念，維修被認為是件退流行又沒有必要的事。
創客運動(Maker Movement)、駭客空間(Hackerspace)和其他業餘玩家、學生與DIY狂熱者的崛起，是這波21世紀DIY風潮興起的另一項證明。這些與維修咖啡館的服務品項相較之下，象徵其他小眾專業化漸漸崛起。像是Remade in Edinburgh，著重在服飾與工藝品；Free Geek Chicago及倫敦的Restart Project皆專精於手機電子產品的修復與升級，而不用再破費買新的。現在網路上都可以找到很多關於維修的資源，從基本的縫補衣物到複雜的電腦、手機、相機甚至是卡車的維修教學。有些維修愛好者更以維修代替購買做長達一年的自我挑戰。
倫敦的The Restart Project 談到他們在循環經濟中的小貢獻，像是維修物品，分享技能，讓回收利用達到最大值，並將維修與保養變成當地經濟開發的一部份。也許丟掉壞掉的東西是最簡單快速的方法，但這麼做不但花錢，也少了原本該有的驚喜。
Repair cafes are about fixing thingsincluding the economy
Imagine your smartphone’s screen gets smashed, or your bike wheel gets buckled, or your favourite boots get a hole in them. What do you do? You could buy a replacement. Or you could join the worldwide trend of taking your broken stuff to a “repair café”.
The Bower Reuse and Repair Centre has just launched Australia’s first repair café, in Sydney’s inner west. The crowd-funded project will hold weekly repair sessions focusing on bikes, furniture and electrical items.
What is a repair café?
A repair café is a free face-to-face meeting of skilled volunteers and local residents who want things fixed. Many run as a weekly, monthly or seasonal “drop-in” space at a local workshop or community centre, or offer stalls at a local fair or park. Visitors bring broken items from home and watch, learn or help as the repairs get done. Some things are fixed during the event, while for more challenging items people might be referred to local speciality repair shops.
Volunteers aren’t necessarily tradespeople but they are tinkerers – people who love to work with objects. Many people who love bikes have learned how to repair and maintain them; others can sew, alter and transform old clothes; still others are fascinated by how watches work.
Up and running in Sydney’s inner west. Jade Herriman, CC BY
In this sense, repair is a natural extension of understanding, and a creative process that gives immense satisfaction. Many visitors to repair cafés end up becoming repairers themselves.
The list of items successfully repaired at repair cafés is huge: bikes, clothing, cameras, mobile phones, computers, lawnmowers, luggage, lamps, toasters, CD players, microwaves – basically, almost anything you can physically bring along.
Our relationship with material objects has changed dramatically in the generations since wartime Britons were told to “make do and mend”. Simple repairs – resoling a shoe, mending a hole in a dress or gluing the leg of a chair – became less common as the disposable culture developed beyond small items like razors and pens, to include clothes, furniture and electronics. Mending came to be seen as old-fashioned and unnecessary, and cheap mass-production meant that anything less than perfect could be thrown away and replaced.
Last year, according to the ABS, Australians sent more than half a million tonnes of leather and textiles to landfill – more than ten times the amount that was reused or recycled. But as British researchers conclude, reusing old clothes reduces environmental impact and boosts social equity.
A culture of repair
Fixing things can be fun. Jade Herriman, CC BY
Mending represents a deliberate attempt to resist the throwaway culture. Repair cafés get people talking and give them the chance to network and learn about the local resources available. And, perhaps most surprisingly for anyone who considers mending to be some kind of frugal drudgery, repair cafés can be fun and creative. After one event in Palo Alto, California, organisers wrote on their blog:
Visitors to the Repair Cafe were delighted. It seems we really struck a chord with people – not only touching their desire to do something positive about their accumulated, broken stuff, but also appealing to the desire people have for this kind of community participation. The event also sparked lots of ideas among different people who came by – partnerships with other community groups, a community tool library, and advice on how to do things better next time. Most of all, though, everyone just had fun.
Meanwhile, repair café organisers in Brighton, UK stress that:
Repairing is not only a creative and political activity – creating a sense of empowerment and independence – it is also a way of creating community cohesion and reducing waste.
New approaches to old stuff
While repair cafés are general, other similar projects are more specialised, such as Remade in Edinburgh, which focuses on clothes and crafts, and Free Geek Chicago and the London-based Restart Project, which help people repair and upgrade their own phones and electronics without buying new ones.
Online, there is a host of resources about repair – from the basics of mending clothes, to detailed and complex repair guides for computers, phones, games consoles, cameras, and even trucks. Some “fixers” have challenged themselves to make it the entire basis of their lifestyle.
It’s the circular economy, stupid
“In a circular economy, repair cafés fit right in”, says the movement’s original founder Martine Postma. In rejecting the linear model of buy-use-dispose, the circular economy aims to keep resources moving around in the economy, rather than shunting them through it to a dead end, where they are lost to valuable use.
The Restart Project describes efforts such as theirs as the “inner circle of the circular economy” – small-scale solutions that involve sharing skills to develop a local economy of maintenance and repair, before items are even considered for recycling.
It might be quicker and easier to throw stuff in the bin, but it’s more expensive and less fun too.
Jade is a Research Principal at University of Technology Sydney. She has 15 years experience in sustainability research and project management, with a background in environmental biology and applied environmental management in local government.