Repair Café Porto: A Situational Analysis

Repair Café Porto: A Situational Analysis

Ana Coelho (Circular Economy Portugal, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9885-5.ch014


This chapter analyses Repair Café Porto (RCP) through the lens of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) method. It is based on the event-RCP held for three hours on a Saturday every two months from June 17, 2017 until April 28, 2018 and on a new economics approach of circular economy. It is intended to examine the potentialities and challenges of RCP. Repair Cafés are ‘workshops' for people to bring consumer products in need of repair where they with volunteer fixers learn repair, maintain their broken or faulty products, or try product modification. It is an RCP-requirement that visitors who bring products participate in repairs undertaken. Regular repair stations include bike, electrical and electronic, clothing, and jewellery. The SWOT method is used to assess internal and external aspects of RCP. It is concluded that the success of RCP is dependent on financial support, the maturity of repair notion, and the alteration of consumers and producers' attitudes to see waste as a resource and to extend the life of a product.
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The EU’s action plan for the circular economy underlines the importance of repair for resource security and sustainability (European Commission, 2016) and switches the focus towards waste reduction and reuse, the options at the top of the waste hierarchy. The Portuguese Government has signalled backing for practical actions that encourage circular economy recognising the value of repair as part of a waste reduction strategy and of circular economy (Presidência do Conselho de Ministros, 2017). Repair is an activity that improves resource security and brings economic benefits through more demand for skilled labour. The ability to repair goods is key to maintaining the functionality of products (Stahel, 2010) and avoiding their disposal. The loss of products and materials slows down the process of closing resource loops (Bocken et al., 2014), inhibiting the movement towards a circular economy. Moreover, short-lived products are an increased financial cost for the consumer. But product longevity, through design, repair and reuse, is central to circular economy thinking (Cooper, 2010).

Over the years different perspectives on waste have been seen around the world. Products were (are) designed – deliberately or not – not to be easy to disassemble, fix or repair, even though, at present, products can be designed to easier disassemble and repair (Charter, 2018). Moreover, for most consumers repair is now only an option for high cost items such as cars and personal computers, or for household fixtures such as heating systems (Cole & Gnanapragasam, 2017) when a few decades ago, a broken object like a toaster or a lamp usually led to a trip to the repairs shop. Now it often means a trip to these large parks, which receive used goods such as household appliances, furniture, and car batteries, amongst others. In Europe, repair services have been declining for a few decades, but the European Commission's package on the Circular Economy emphasises repair, recycling and reuse (European Commission, 2015). And there has been a rapid citizen-driven innovation for product repair solutions that challenge the perception of a society of waste. A huge amount of things are thrown into the trash, even when these things could still be fixed or reused. A wide majority of people performs poorly in how to repair their everyday objects, and also people have forgotten they can fix things. The problem is that knowing how to rework is nowadays a more and more obsolete aptitude, and society itself does not value these practical skills.

Nevertheless, over the last years, online information; increased sharing and collaboration of ideas and information; places that allow citizens to make and fix products; crowdfunding; the emergence of 3D printing tools; and thinking globally but acting locally have propelled numerous initiatives. Repair Cafés have emerged as citizen-driven initiatives to enable the repair of products at a community level and are part of broader movement where groups of individuals that are making and fixing products are coming together in Makerspaces and Fab Labs (Charter, 2018).

The growth of the Repair Café movement in Europe in recent years signals the interest that consumers have in repairing items. There is little data on these organised activities (Cole & Gnanapragasam, 2017). Findings from preliminary research carried out - from June 17, 2017 to April 28, 2018 – at Repair Café Porto (RCP) events and intended to examine the potentialities and challenges of RCP through the lens of a SWOT method are presented. These pop-up repair events are organised by RCP since 2017. And have counterparts in more than 1500 sites in about 30 countries (Repair Café Foundation, 2018).

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