One of the key ways to reduce our use of materials, and limit the amount we throw away, is to repair things. That’s particularly important in the area of electronics. They require relatively scarce metals, and electronic waste is hazardous and complicated to process, which is why a lot of it ends up in faraway places with minimal health and safety standards. Fixing our gadgets would reduce pressure on materials and the waste stream, and safe us money too.
Unfortunately, most of us have no idea how our gadgets work. If they’re within warranty we might send them back, but otherwise we’re powerless to do much about it. Chances are we’d just get another one, or take the opportunity to upgrade. The old one might get recycled or sold on cheaply. Many end up in the bin, usually after a long stint in a drawer.
The Restart Project is a social enterprise hoping to change this pattern. They run Restart Parties in cafes, libraries or workplaces, repairing things together and passing on skills. They started in a pub in London, and in their first year over 500 people brought along household items for repair, laptops, printers and lamps proving the most common.
The repair is collaborative. There are volunteers on hand with relevant experience in electronics and engineering, but they’re not there to do the fixing while you wait. People are encouraged to do it themselves, with the supervision of the experts. The confidence gained through a successful repair could prove more valuable than the repair itself in the long run.
The idea has spread and there are now a number of Restart groups around Britain and further abroad. There’s a map on the website if you want to see if there’s one near you. And if there isn’t, have you got the skills or connections to start one?
As co-founder Ugo Vallauri says, “we aim to radically improve our relationship to electronics. We need to fully own our gadgets, like we would our cars or bicycles. Would you throw those away and upgrade the moment you had a problem?”