Around 90 delegates of repair cafes across the country gathered in Farnham earlier this summer for the second UK Repair Cafe Conference.
The June 9 event aimed to promote sustainability and creative solutions in extending product lifespans.
Organised by The Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for the Creative Arts, in partnership with Repair Café Wales, the conference focused on addressing practical challenges faced by the UK’s repair cafes.
Trustees, managers, repairers and volunteers from new start-ups and established cafés gathered to share knowledge and experiences.
In all, more than 80 repair cafes were represented, with Repair Cafe Wales itself supporting more than 100 repair cafes in Wales thanks to support from the Welsh government.
Key speakers included Professor Martin Charter, director of The Centre for Sustainable Design and chair of Farnham Repair Café, and Phoebe Brown, director of Repair Café Wales.
They highlighted the exponential growth of repair cafes in the UK, contributing to the circular economy movement.
The event covered a diverse range of sessions, including a policy update on the ‘Right to Repair’ by Chris Robertson, head of product regulatory compliance at RINA.
Case studies from repair cafes – some of which are included on this page – shed light on their development, management and organisation experiences.
Round-table discussions addressed critical issues such as marketing, recruitment of repairers, insurance and community engagement.
The conference also focused on product repair experiences, covering electrical items, IT, clothing, bicycles, furniture and 3D printing.
The event concluded with a summing-up session, emphasising key takeaways and proposed next steps for the repair café movement.
An online repair cafe conference was also held in July with the Repair Cafe International foundation for European/Northern American repair cafes, attended by more than 150 people worldwide.
There are now nearly 2,800 repair cafes in existence globally and an estimated 250 in the UK.
And there are hopes emerging that right to repair legislation in Europe and north America will see repair cafes play an even greater environmental and social role in communities in coming years.
In March, the European Commission adopted a formal proposal on common rules promoting the repair of goods, which it says will result in savings for consumers and fewer products ending up in landfill.
If adopted by the European Parliament and member states, consumers across Europe will benefit from a new ‘right to repair’, both within and beyond the legal guarantee of products.
Within two years of purchase, sellers will be required to offer free repairs of products except when it is more expensive than replacement.
And beyond the legal guarantee, a new set of rights and tools will be available to consumers to make ‘repair’ an easy and accessible option.
It is hoped these changes will boost the repair sector while incentivising producers and sellers to develop more sustainable business models.
Consumer goods subject to the proposed EU repair requirements will include home appliances, computer hardware and soon smartphones and tablets.
It is expected some of the new EU policies will eventually be adopted by the UK government, or will inspire similar initiatives.
However, it could still be years before proposed right to repair rules become law with manufacturers lobbying hard against the changes – both in Europe and the USA.
Attendees at the Farnham conferences also heard there is emerging discussion on the engagement in youth in repair cafes – with examples of youth-founded and led repair cafes emerging in Netherlands, the UK and France.
“So repair cafes are set to continue!” said Prof Charter, director of The Centre for Sustainable Design and chair of Farnham Repair Café which recently completed its 2,000th repair (see right).
The Farnham cafe has also recently initiated a greater Surrey Repair Cafe network to share knowledge among 15 repair cafes in the area.
This is a peer-to-peer network that is enabling start-up repair cafes to bring any challenges to more experienced repair cafes – and also allows monthly networking to share information.
For more information or to watch a video recording of the second UK Repair Cafe Conference, see: https://cfsd.org.uk/events/repair-cafe-conference-2023/
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