By Lizette Salmon, Coordinator Repair Cafe Albury-Wodonga
Speech pathology student Vanessa has been invited to an 18th birthday. The night before the party she opens her wardrobe, contemplating an outfit. A pretty floral dress catches her eye. But what’s this? It has a split seam. Vanessa doesn’t own a sewing machine. She’s been shown how to hand-stitch at the Repair Cafe but this job is beyond her. As luck would have it the Repair Cafe is open the next morning. Vanessa arrives, is introduced to one of the volunteer sewers and together they start fixing.
Unbeknownst to Vanessa, the team has been keeping a tally on numbers arriving at their June session; they’re counting down to a big milestone. Vanessa’s dress is the 1000th item to the Repair Café! Everyone cheers and cameras flash. By close of business the count has risen to 1022 items; that’s 245 clothes and textiles, 250 garden tools, 143 ‘other’ items, 126 battery-operated appliances, 96 pieces of jewellery, 72 items of furniture, 54 books and 36 bikes since the Repair Café opened in November 2015.
Imagine if all were heaped in one big pile. How impressive would that look? Best of all, 78% were repaired, kept in circulation, diverted from landfill.
These fixed goods weighed 1.3 tonnes. But their real weight is around 38 tonnes. How so? All manufactured goods come with an ‘ecological rucksack’ that’s an average 30 times its final weight i.e. the weight of all materials used in the manufacture and distribution of products, including initial mineral extraction. Rucksack factors include 2-7 for plastics, 7 for steel, 15 for paper and 500 for copper.
Translating this into day to day items, manufacturing one toothbrush produces 1.5kg of waste, a mobile phone 75kg and a computer 1,500kg.
This makes it even more important we reuse and repair wherever possible. Repair Cafes help us do so and they’re flourishing. Ours was the third in Australia and the first in Victoria. Now there are six in Victoria alone. Melbourne, Seymour, Castlemaine, Bendigo and Morwell are on board, with plans to start one in Wangaratta too.
Repair Cafe Albury-Wodonga opens 10am-1pm on the first Saturday of each month, including this Saturday, at the Sustainable Activity Centre on Gateway Island. It’s a free, community-led initiative proudly supported by HalveWaste with yummies from Birallee Neighbourhood House. For more information see ecoportal.net.au or visit our Facebook page.