Fostering a repair culture is not as easy as it should be but a Repair Café is a good place to start
When making the decision to get a broken item repaired vs. replacing it, the financial cost is what usually comes to mind first and foremost. Can I afford to get this item repaired? Can I justify the cost of getting this item repaired?
Sometimes, the answer is a resounding and satisfying “Yes!” Like, getting your favourite pair of boots resoled. Other times, it’s a bit more complicated.
We’re less likely to think twice about repairing big-ticket items like home appliances or vehicles. The higher the original purchase price, the more willing we are to spend money on repairs. It makes financial sense to spend less to repair than to buy new, but for less pricy items, especially those that are made cheaply with the prospect of a short lifespan, it makes less sense. Why spend $30 to repair a toaster when a new one costs $20?
In some cases, getting an item repaired has become a privilege that not everyone can afford and events like local repair cafés can help break down these financial barriers –
there are currently more than 2,000 Repair Café locations across the world, including 35 in Canada. However, sometimes the barriers to repair are more deliberate and the problem needs to be addressed at the source, which is where “Right to Repair” comes in.
In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to repair some consumer goods because manufacturers implement tactics such as digital locks and warranty restrictions to control the repair services market and force consumers to buy new. Right to Repair legislation would require manufacturers to ensure access to parts, tools and information required to repair their products for a reasonable price. Companies that have spoken out against this type of legislation include many we’re all very familiar with: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google, to name a few.
Right to Repair legislation has already been implemented in some countries, including the US and the UK, but the battle continues in Canada: Bill C-272, targeting technological protection measures under Canada’s Copyright Act, received unanimous support upon second reading in June 2021, which creates hope for bigger reform here in the future.
In the meantime, there are many items that can be repaired without the need to navigate technological roadblocks and we can start making it a habit to always think of repairing first, then considering other options:
Of course, there are also other benefits of a repair culture that cannot be ignored. It’s a win for the local economy when we choose to hire the services of a local repair technician rather than buying new. It’s also a win for the planet when an item is given a second (or third or fourth) life to keep it away from landfill.
The Edmonton Tool Library is hosting Edmonton’s first ever Repair Café on 21 August, 10am-4pm.
-Kate Hamilton, ETL board member