Saskatchewan. Repair Cafe helps breathe new life into broken things, keep them out of the landfill

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Gillian Walker and Jo-Anne Derby both lean over a workstation at the Saskatoon Makerspace, trying to figure out how to fix a duck head lamp.

“I bought it a long time ago when I got a job in some kind of specialty gift shop,” Derby said.

“It broke before we moved to Saskatoon. I put it in a box and thought it could be fixed. But when I looked at it myself, I had no idea .”

Volunteer Walker and the owner of Derby Duck Lamp were working together on Saturday trying to save the item from the landfill.

Repairing things instead of throwing them away was one of the goals of Saturday’s all-day Repair Cafe, organized by the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council and Saskatoon Makerspace. Volunteers from Saskatoon and Regina offered their skills — for free — to help fix other people’s household items at Regina’s Cathedral Neighborhood Center and Saskatoon Makerspace.

Damaged camping heaters, worn clothes and broken lamps were among the many items given a second chance.

“Earlier [Derby] happened and we were working with a hold that was well beyond repair,” Walker said.

“She took a new take. And now we’re just putting it together and putting it back together. And we should have some light.”

Think about repairing instead of throwing things away

In addition to in-person events in Saskatoon and Regina, people from across Saskatchewan were able to join a virtual Repair Café where volunteers provided advice and instruction to help others repair their broken possessions.

“Reducing waste is obviously a huge issue,” said Meg Dorwart, communications and events coordinator with the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council.

“I feel so much joy doing these events. It’s nice to see people being so excited about fixing their stuff, because that’s literally the whole point…trying to inspire people to repair and to think about repairing when something breaks.”

LISTEN | Repair Cafe offers a helping hand to breathe new life into old and broken household items:

Saskatoon Morning6:49Repair Cafe lends a helping hand to breathe new life into worn and broken household items

CBC reporter Theresa Kliem got a first-hand look at Saskatoon’s Repair Cafe in action. This is where volunteers offer their skills, free of charge, to fix other people’s household items. 6:49

Saskatchewan generates the second highest amount of waste per capita in the country, according to the provincial government’s website.

Each year, each Saskatchewan resident produces an average of 842 kilograms of garbage, which is comparable to the weight of 60 bags of regular household garbage, depending on the province.

Meg Dorwart is the Communications and Events Coordinator at the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council. She was one of the organizers of the Repair Cafe in Saskatoon (Therese Kliem/CBC)

Textile waste is a big problem, Saskatoon volunteer says

After two years of mostly virtual workshops, Saturday’s one-day event was the second in-person Repair Cafe in Saskatoon since the pandemic hit in 2020, Dorwart said.

“It’s obviously so different from virtual because you get… people’s energy, and a lot more people come out.”

The Waste Reduction Council of Saskatchewan and Makerspace hope to host the biannual event more often in the future.

On Saturday, volunteer Adrian Pearce was fixing Debby Peng’s bike at the Repair Cafe in Saskatoon. Peng says she likes getting things fixed instead of buying new things. (Therese Kliem/CBC)

Amanda Ross was one of 16 city volunteers volunteering their skills to help others.

While she usually worked as a teacher, sewing has always been a passion for the Saskatoon woman.

Seeing the finished product after putting away the needle and thread gives it a sense of completion and satisfaction, Ross said.

Amanda Ross was busy volunteering as a seamstress at the Saskatoon Repair Cafe on Saturday. (Therese Kliem/CBC)

“I’ve been sewing since I was old enough to see over the table because my mother and grandmother were seamstresses,” she said.

“I started sewing again as a kind of therapy to fill this need for gratification. And then, by doing some research, I learned a lot about… textile waste.”

It was then that Ross began to take a greater interest in repair and recycling.

A gray cardigan and ripped jeans are just some of the clothes that ended up on her table on Saturday.

It’s important to Ross that clothes with holes don’t end up in the trash.

“The amount of waste that occurs in the textile industry with fast fashion is excruciating,” she said.

“It kills me because there are so many things we could better spend our money and resources on.”

WATCH | Clothing from Canada is a huge waste:

Canada’s clothing is a huge waste | Radio-Canada market

Discarded clothing accounts for a huge amount of waste in landfills, according to the latest CBC Marketplace survey. Canadians buy an average of 70 new clothes per year, which contributes to the 12 million tonnes of textile waste dumped each year in North American landfills. Some retailers have launched sustainability campaigns and set up in-store bins to recycle old items, but that’s no solution to the endless onslaught of disposable clothing. 7:00

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