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Repair Cafes: A Sustainable Solution to Electronic Waste

When it comes to electronics, people are often pushed to stay up-to-date on the newest models, using and discarding quickly obsolete items without much thought of where they end up. This mindset has made electronic waste, or e-waste, to become the fastest growing domestic waste stream in the world. E-waste consists of electric and electronic equipment, such as cell phones, televisions, toys, and appliances. In 2019, 54 million tons of e-waste was produced globally, the equivalent of 16 lbs per person. Each year, the global production grows by 2.5 million tons. It’s estimated that by 2030, global production will reach 74.7 million tons, nearly doubling the amount of new e-waste in just 16 years. However, quantity is not the only issue.

Once e-waste is discarded, it often is illegally transported to toxic dump sites in countries like the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, and China. This waste is harmful to human health and the environment due to toxic chemicals such as mercury, arsenic, and chromium, and greenhouse gasses emitted from cooling appliances. With exponential growth in the production and harmful impacts of e-waste, people are searching for potential solutions.

In 2016, 20% of e-waste produced was recycled, and this number grows by about 1.8 million tons each year. However, even this significant growth does not keep up with the growth in production. Different strategies are necessary in order to mitigate the impact of this waste.

One solution is simply fixing and reusing products, rather than discarding or recycling them. Since starting in Amsterdam in 2009, Repair Cafe has expanded into over 36 countries, hosting more than 1,600 events. Martine Postma, the creator of Repair Cafe, felt inspired to help community members fix their household appliances and electronics instead of throwing them away. When attending a Repair Cafe event, a local resident can bring their faulty item, learn how to fix it, as well as other electronics, and leave with a repaired item — all for free. The non-profit’s events are run by enthusiastic volunteers, simply interested in helping others find solutions and reduce their e-waste.

In just nine years, Repair Cafe helped keep nearly 300,000 items out of landfills by encouraging people to repair their own products. Not only is the movement empowering individuals, allowing them to learn new and valuable skills, but it’s an affordable alternative to potentially expensive repairs. Even if people are unable to fix their item, Repair Cafe encourages social cohesion within communities in an otherwise isolating or frustrating process.

Repair Cafe inspires a necessary change in the global mentality surrounding e-waste. By giving locals the opportunity to take initiative in their own repairs in places like Repair Cafe, people have the ability to shift their own mindset and think more sustainably. These sustainably-driven communities are a key step in stopping harmful habits, giving hope to reducing e-waste and its echoing consequences.

If you’re looking for a Repair Cafe in Massachusetts, there’s locations in Lynn, Bolton, and more! Check out the Repair Cafe website to find more locations and learn more about this incredible project!


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