Against planned and all-disposable obsolescence, the growing success of Repair Cafés

On this last Saturday of Advent, Parisians flock to the shops for their ultimate Christmas shopping. But in the premises of the association Le Pari’s des Faubourgs, located in the heart of 10e arrondissement of Paris, instead of the former Saint-Lazare prison, the atmosphere is quite different. For three years, this neighborhood association has hosted once a month a DIY workshop of a rather special kind: a Repair Café.

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Invented in the Netherlands at the end of the 2000s by an environmental activist to fight against planned obsolescence and the all-disposable culture, the concept is spreading all over the world. Today, 2,234 Repair Cafés are listed in some fifteen different countries, including 350 in France. The principle: volunteers, all handymen at their leisure, provide free repair services to users powerless in the face of a device that has died.

That day, six volunteers came to lend a hand. Chartered accountant, electronics engineer, former building craftsman… The profiles are varied. “We divide up the files according to our skills, and spend a lot of time on the tutorials”, says Emmanuel, one of them. “Very often, we realize that people no longer even have the idea of ​​taking the product apart to try to understand what is not working, adds Didier, a retired former physicist and researcher. However, with a little knowledge and common sense, most breakdowns are fairly easily repaired. “

“Fear of being ripped off”

According to the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe), 90% of electrical and electronic devices could indeed be repaired, against 40% in reality, the majority of people favoring the purchase of a new product. For the participants, who all show a marked concern for the planet, the Repair Cafés are also a response to the lack of professional repairers, and to the “Fear of being ripped off”. Before registering for a connected speaker whose USB port was torn off, Christophe went to a repairer in the 17e district of the capital. “Believing that there was nothing to do, he offered to sell me another”, he relates. This Saturday, he will leave happy with a speaker like new, for only 5 euros (in compensation for the material).

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Not all stories end so well. Adept at the concept, Marion has already made two coffees to save the mini-chain that her father was about to throw away. But this evening, Emmanuel is categorical: the device cannot be recovered. At the end of the day, the results remain satisfactory. Of the seventeen broken down objects, nine have been repaired, and four are in progress. Or 30 kg of objects that will not end up under the pestle.