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Belgium’s Repair Cafés. Where you can recycle your favourite objects while making new friends

Why throw away things that could be brought back to life? Repair Cafés teach how to value what you have, whilst giving you a chance to meet your neighbours.

Repair Cafés, located all over Belgium, have a simple motto: repairing together. People gather from all corners of the country with their broken objects and a big smile in this free-for all, welcoming and convivial environment. Volunteer handymen are there to help, and there is always time for a good cup of tea or coffee.

 

Repair Café at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels © Repair Together
Repair Café at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels © Repair Together

The Repair Café culture

In Europe many are used to throwing away what they think of as being “used”. Objects that, instead, could often be put back into shape with a small repair. Repairing has become an almost foreign concept in our consumerist culture where we are encouraged to always buy new things. Even the know-how of how to fix things is slowly disappearing. So Repair Cafés provide the solution, bringing this knowledge back to life and transmitting it to whoever is open to learn.

 

When new objects aren’t bought, the consumption of raw materials and energy needed in their creation is drastically reduced, which also means cutting down on carbon emissions.

 

Repair Café at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels © Repair Together
Repair Café at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels © Repair Together

The initiative

Broken furniture, clothes, bicycles, toys, kitchenware and anything else you can think of can be taken to Repair Café events, which are attended by IT experts, tailors, electricians, woodworkers and bicycle repairers. The aim is to raise awareness about the value of what we own, in order to create a sustainable society.

 

The eco-friendly initiative has been promoting this truly essential change in mentality since September 2012. “We can see how this is evolving beautifully in the growing number of Repair Cafés,” says Emilie Windels, the project manager. “This development shows that the change of mentality is becoming more widespread. This change can also be felt in the diversity of people attending. There are more and more people of different ages, cultural backgrounds, social status and gender”.

 

Repair Café in the Marolles neighbourhood, Brussels © Repair Together
Repair Café in Marolles neighbourhood, Brussels © Repair Together

Cafés in Belgium

There are 17 Repair Cafés in Brussels, 53 in Wallonia and 155 in Flanders. On average, 67 attend every event and 65 percent of the broken objects are fixed on the spot. 35,807 visitors attended, 15,941 objects were repaired and 82.3 tonnes of CO2 were saved in the country in 2015 alone.

 

“We are also realising that many Repair Cafés are serving as a starting point”, Windels explains, “people are then orienting themselves towards other local, environmental, economic, social and scientific initiatives”.

 

Repair Café at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels © Repair Together
Repair Café at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels © Repair Together

 

The team is very ambitious. They hope to open more and more Repair Cafés across Belgium so that everyone can have the chance of finding a free repair place and meeting their neighbours close to home. They also want better logistics, human capacity and financial resources to start new projects such as the creation of mini-repair cafés in schools and knowledge exchange sessions between repairers.

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