Pick up a screwdriver and help end our throwaway society!

This is a guest blog post from James Harries.  He describes his initiative to set up a group to work on repairing consumer ‘durables’  (not so durable are they?)  This is one of the areas  for development that we suggest in In Place of Growth.  We see it as a way of building what we call the ‘replacement economy’, keeping wealth in the community and countering the built in obsolescence of so many products.

Fed up with our throw-away society? Want to help the transition to a more sustainable economy? Enjoy taking things apart and putting things back together again? I am looking for like-minded people in Manchester to set up a group that gets together for evenings of fun, chat and repairs! We will have a go at taking apart and putting back together mobile phones, cameras, printers, irons…anything you can think of. Through this we can learn about how things are designed, come up with ideas on how to improve product recycling and reuse and, who knows, maybe even bring a few old products back to life!
If you are interested, or want more information, email James Harries at jharries17@gmail.com or ‘like’ us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Manchester-Repairs/119454924908472

This is a response to our throw-away society and a reaction to what the Ellen MacArthur Foundation calls our “take-make-dispose” economy, where natural resources are extracted, used to build something that is then used and finally thrown away at the end of its life. Instead, they advocate a more circular economy, where raw materials (both biological and technical) are circulated in a “closed-loop system”. ‘Biological’ materials are non-toxic and are allowed to degrade naturally and ‘technical’ materials are circulated continuously (or at least as much as possible).

This is already happening in some areas. For example Puma has designed a new line of closed-loop clothing, including compostable t-shirts, a backpack that can be dismantled to create new backpacks and a jacket made from recycled plastic bottles that can itself be turned back into the raw material for polyester and reused. But the circular economy is about more than just trying to reuse what you can. It’s about designing items in the first place so they don’t contain toxic materials and can more easily be disassembled and reused.

This is also an important element of Manchester’s climate change strategy (Manchester: A Certain Future). In the 2013 update, it says:
“In 2013–2015, we also need to explore the development of Manchester’s ‘thrift economy’ – growth in local reuse and repair activity and an increase in the service-based economy, with more organisations set up to seize the opportunity to repair and recycle goods that just a few years ago would have been sent to landfill.”

By taking things apart, learning about how they are designed in the first place and trying to repair them, we can improve our own skills and get a better understanding of what companies need to do move towards a circular economy. We will be able to support those companies doing the right thing and name-and-shame those that aren’t. In particular, we’d like to highlight those companies that are practicing “built-in or planned obsolescence”, where companies design items specifically so they stop working after a period of time or a certain number of uses, thus forcing the consumer to buy new prooducts. As the Restart Project in London says “Don’t despair, repair”!

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