Laurence came to our first Restart Party in Brixton, the one we defined as our “Midas moment”, as everything we touched…miraculously got fixed. Laurence’s Matsui 225 dvd player was no exception to the rule: when she brought it to the event, it was a typical case of a sad piece of electronics on its way out, as it would “eat dvds” and not play them. A team of volunteers opened it and took the whole thing apart, making sure that the tray mechanism would get cleaned throughout. Jack, Ben and Alan, took about half an hour to perform the operation, and everyone enjoyed the learning experience: many of us had never seen how a dvd player works from the inside! When they put it back together, the dvd player started working again, as new.
But what is the point of fixing a dvd player, especially when the exact same model can be bought used on Ebay for close to nothing? Had Laurence gone to a repair shop, she would have most likely paid more to repair it than to buy another second hand player. We still think it’s worth repairing – period, but the economics of repair are a paradox.
First of all, we need to communicate the range of additional values and benefits linked to repair and reuse: for example, repairing a tech product means extending its life and reducing the amount of stuff ending up in landfill or in recycling centre well too early. While recycling is important, the energy costs of disassembling and sorting our tech stuff are exorbitant. In addition to this, most tech products in our possession are not designed to maximise the recycling of metals and rare materials in them, so we should as much as possible postpone their end of life. Recycling is “sustainable” and recommendable only when repair is no longer possible. By focusing on repair, we can support local, independent technicians and that can be one simple way of “bringing manufacturing back home” and creating jobs.
Just as importantly, we need new models (and business models too) for repair shops. For instance, memberships to a repair service with access to advice, maintenance training and repair support might be a promising alternative to paying for a single repair intervention. But other models can thrive as well: think for example of cycle shops offering repair training…and many other approaches we still haven’t taken in consideration.
In short, as we at The Restart Project never get tired to repeat: don’t despair, just repair!!