Don't throw it away, bring it to the Repair Cafe

Sarah Norrlund, a volunteer from last fall's Repair Cafe.

KELOWNA - Have you ever had a toaster oven or an old clock radio stop working for no apparent reason? Maybe you threw it in the landfill because everyone told you it’s cheaper to buy a new one and you've felt guilty ever since.

There's a new way to avoid this guilt, and save a few dollars along the way.

You can take that broken toaster to the Repair Cafe this weekend, where volunteer repair people might be able to breathe new life into it.

“The whole idea behind the Repair Cafe is don't toss it, fix it,” Rae Stewart, waste reduction coordinator for the Central Okanagan Regional District, says. “You may be able to get some more use out of it and we get to prevent things unneccesarilly ending up in the garbage and, ultimately, the landfill.”

The Repair Cafe is a free service staffed with an array of volunteers with varied backgrounds who like to fix things, Stewart says. However, don’t expect to drop off your broken microwave and run some errands.

“We want you to be part of the process and help them in the repair process, maybe even fix yourself, under their guidance,” Stewart says.

While appliances are obvious candidates for the Repair Cafe, Stewart says they also have volunteers skilled in fixing broken ceramics and repairing small items of clothing.

“There’s also a couple of guys who are good at fixing bikes and some who can help fix your old lawnmower,” she adds.

While fixing old appliances is one goal, changing attitudes is another.

“We’re really trying to get people thinking ‘perhaps I can use this thing again',” Stewart says. “Our habit in this throw-away society is to get rid of it, but that’s something our parent’s generation would never have dreamed of doing.”

Stewart says the first Repair Cafe, held last fall, saw about 70 per cent of participants walk away with a rejuvenated item.

“Of course, some items are designed not to last; it’s called planned obsolescence,” she adds. “But often it might just be a tiny little part or something that’s come loose inside."

Still there are limitations. If it can’t be fixed, the owner must still take the item away with them for proper disposal.

The Repair Cafe will be held at the KLO campus of Okanagan College in the Centre for Learning from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 18.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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