Resource Use

Repair Café Conference to launch new Carbon Calculator

A ‘Repair Café Carbon Calculator’ is set to be previewed at the UK’s first Repair Café Conference on 12 March at the University for Creative Arts (UCA) in Farnham, Surrey.

Repairing an electronic item

The conference, which has been organised by UCA’s Centre for Sustainable Design (CfSD), will also feature a demonstration of 3D printing for spare parts, as used by Farnham Repair Café (FRC). 

Farnham’s Repair Café Conference will be the first preview of the carbon calculator ahead of its official launch on 31 March, which will coincide with the launch of a new FRC website.

The calculator measures how much CO2 is potentially saved from the repair of products, taking into account variables including transport emissions to and from the repair café, spare parts use and the savings made by reducing the emissions released from the manufacture new products.

The project is the result of a collaboration between FRC trustee and volunteer Steve Privett and UCA Professor Martin Charter, Director of CfSD and Chair of the Board of Trustees of FRC.

At the conference, delegates – including representatives from repair cafés, local authorities, environmental organisations and academics – will hear new research on global repair café and visitors’ behaviour, new innovations and best practice or issues related to repair.

Commenting on the carbon calculator’s formation, Privett said: “There wasn’t a specific ‘eureka’ moment for the calculator’s creation. I discussed an idea for it with Professor Charter, who was keen to make it accessible by anyone with an internet connection. The idea evolved from there into the calculator we see today. At its core is a sound methodology based on information and data from Farnham Repair Café and other repair cafés in the UK.”

Professor Charter commented: “Research on the social impacts of repair café has been highlighted in the media and on social media, but very little about their potential ability to mitigate CO2 emissions has been published. The calculator should help change that and give more accurate estimations of CO2 saved.

“It’s also an excellent example of how the circular economy – repairing products, for example – can reduce the impact of climate change by helping to reduce CO2 emissions.”

Privett added: “Prior to the preview on 12 March, the methodology that the calculator is based on has seen international interest from repair cafés, academics, research students and repair organisations.”

FRC’s 3D printing for spare parts will also be demonstrated at the conference. Privett explained: “3D printing has the ability to revolutionise how repair cafés can further lower CO2 emissions and landfill by being able to repair a wider range of goods, thereby reducing the need to ‘buy new’. Products repaired at FRC using 3D printing have included an antique style lamp, mechanical toys, torches and custom appliance fittings, and promotional keyrings have been produced for FRC.”

FRC, which was founded in 2015, is open on every second Saturday of the month between 10am and 1pm, offering advice and repairs on products ranging from vacuum cleaners to clothing. Professor Charter explained: “Our repairers are highly skilled and do a brilliant job. To date we have organised 58 sessions and had 3,000 visitors to Farnham Repair Café since launch. There have been almost 1300 repairs at a 65 percent repair rate with over 3.7 tonnes being diverted from landfill, and we have reduced CO2 by 32.4 tonnes, and seen over £91,000 saved by repairing instead of buying new.”

Read more: The Restart Project – repair in the community

Community repair events are growing in popularity amid growing public awareness of the importance of the circular economy – last month, 75 repair cafés around the country took part in a nationwide Big Fix event, coordinated by Devon County Council, which aimed to repair over 2,000 items in one day.

With global resource consumption at a record high, the EU is set to bring in new rules for repair as part of its Ecodesign Directive, introducing legislation obligating manufacturers to make their products more repairable. The UK Government also plans to take similar action, with the Resources and Waste Strategy proposing that the government will match or exceed the EU’s Ecodesign system. 

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