Let’s Talk Trash: The right to repair

As supply chains break down, getting replacement parts can involve longer wait times and higher prices. It seems the pandemic’s effect on the market is adding further fuel to the bonfire known as the circular economy.

Essentially mimicking nature, which is ultimately a closed loop system with nothing that goes to waste, the circular economy reduces waste by finding ways to feed it back into the economy as a resource. The linear model of make-use-dispose is antiquated and we are instead waking up to the efficiency of repair and reuse.

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The conversation is happening all around us: in 3D printing labs producing sprinkler nozzles out of recycled plastic, in production lines using recycled parts for products, and at government tables legislating that products be repairable without brand-exclusive tools.

In a matter of decades, we devolved from making things that lasted and were easy to repair to mass production of cheap products designed to become obsolete. Fortunately, the tides are turning.

Resources such as iFixIt.com offer an alternative to the throwaway economy. This wiki-based site teaches people to fix almost anything. Users are invited to create repair manuals, edit existing ones and make use of ones already perfected. The founders hold firm the belief that we have the right to repair what we buy.

Those of us who feel overwhelmed at the notion of doing our own repairs can tap into community resources such as friends and family members who like to tinker.

Municipalities across the country are bringing together this collective knowledge and offering repair cafés where locals are invited to share their repair expertise free of charge. These popular events bring together all kinds of people from a 10-year-old who loves fixing vacuums to an 88-year-old breathing life back into wrist watches. qathet Regional District is gearing up to host events like this in the years to come, so contact Let’s Talk Trash to share how you’d like to be involved.

A practical addition to repair cafés is the creation of a community tool library. Much like book libraries, people apply for membership and then have access to robust tool kits they otherwise would have had to buy for a single use. Imagine borrowing a tiling kit that then gets reused by dozens of others over its life instead of buying one that gathers dust in your garage after a solitary project.

Tied into the right to repair is reskilling. More and more, we are realizing we’ve lost contact with basic skills for life like mending clothes, fixing drawers or patching tires. Fortunately, it has never been easier to teach ourselves using the plethora of online how-to videos.

That said, passing skills directly from person to person is much more human scale and tactile. What a gift to share our knowledge with friends and family so they can become more capable and less dependent on buying new replacements.

There is a rightness to learning how to take care of our belongings and in so doing, keeping precious resources in circulation much longer.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program. For more information, email info@LetsTalkTrash.ca or go to LetsTalkTrash.ca.

 
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