Lack of repair knowledge hinders circular economy

Many broken items are relatively easy to repair. But many people have so little repair knowledge that they don’t succeed in doing so independently. That is one of the conclusions that the Repair Café International Foundation draws from the analysis of almost 8,000 repairs.

Repair Café International analyzed the data entered in the RepairMonitor, the online tool for repair data collection, in 2018. The data was entered by volunteer repairers at 34 Repair Cafés in the Netherlands, the US, the UK and Australia.

Cleaning, descaling and lubricating
65% of all repairs were successful. In many cases it turned out that items were not really broken, but mainly needed maintenance. Simple tasks such as cleaning, descaling or lubricating were often enough to make a product work again. The fact that people come to a Repair Café for this, mention the report’s authors, is proof of the lack of repair knowledge in society.

“Many people are also insufficiently aware that maintenance is a normal thing; they no longer see this as a self-evident task that you perform at home, as part of everyday life”, says Martine Postma, director of Repair Café International.

Putting repair back into the classroom
According to the foundation, this must change urgently. Postma: “Many countries want to make the transition to a circular economy. In such a society, repairing and taking good care of your things are normal activities. Our volunteers are happy to show their neighbours the basics of repairing, but the real change will come when repair skills are put on the curriculum once more.”

More robust design can prevent problems
Analysis of the RepairMonitor data also shows that many problems could have been prevented by more robust design of mainly electrical appliances. The most common problems found, when these items are brought to the Repair Café, are wire breaks, worn gears, broken switches and buttons, reduced battery capacity etc. “These parts are often not produced in a way that they can take regular long-term use”, the report states.

Popular products and brands
The most common item brought to the Repair Café in 2018 was the coffee machine. Also vacuum cleaners, bicycles, lamps, trousers, sewing machines, clocks, coats, irons and laptops are often brought in for repair. The most popular brands in the RepairMonitor 2018 are Philips, Sony, Bosch, Tefal, Samsung, Miele, HP, Nespresso, Gazelle and Braun.

Top 10 most popular products in RepairMonitor 2018, with numbers

More information and joining
Want to know more? Download the report (in Dutch). Or read the summary (in English).
Want to collect data via the RepairMonitor too? Sign up your Repair Café now!

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