The UK is one of the biggest producers of e-waste in the world, and unwanted electrical and tech waste is our fastest growing waste stream. We wanted to address this issue directly by setting up two Fixing Factories in London, as a blueprint for people to open one on every high street.
In partnership with climate charity Possible, Ready Tech Go, West London Waste Authority (WLWA), Mer IT – and with National Lottery Community Funding – we opened our first Fixing Factory in the Abbey Road Reuse and Recycling Centre in Brent. Hosted by WLWA and led by project partner Ready Tech Go, this facility focuses on repairing donated laptops and tablets and passing them on to people without digital access. Our volunteer workforce also repairs people's broken electronics on a pay-what-you-like basis. They will also offer workshops and training, to empower people to repair their own items.
We don't believe live repair at a mass discard site has been done before – and we want to test how effective this contrast is in reducing e-waste and changing behaviour. Besides daily repair, we'll host public events demonstrating how laptops can have valuable second lives and facilitating deeper learning about solutions to the impacts of e-waste.
In addition to our facility inside a Brent waste facility, our second Fixing Factory will launch on a Camden high street. Possible will lead in Camden, securing a storefront space to operate a Fixing Factory focusing on small household appliances and electronics. Devices such as toasters, hand-held electronics, kettles and hoovers are difficult to get fixed – a significant market failure that helps lock low-income households into an expensive cycle of replacement of lower-cost, lower-quality items. Our aim in choosing a high street location is to change our relationship with used electronics while boosting ailing town centres, creating another working model of a permanent place for community-powered repair.
Photo credit: Mark A Phillips
Find partners to work with – we would not have been able to open our two Fixing Factories without the support of our partner organisations who bring their own expertise to make the overall service offering much stronger and more sustainable.
Pick your location carefully – the space needs to be accessible to the local community, for networking, volunteering and socialising.
Secure seed funding – we were awarded National Lottery Community Funding, but there are many other alternative sources to help get your own repair facility off the ground.
Think about alternative revenue streams – for example, to broaden the Factory's appeal on the high street and attract new people we will explore offering low-cost community space hire after hours, hosting a community cafe on local concession, opening a retro gaming arcade.
Volume of e-waste eliminated by repairing and reusing electronics and electrical goods.
Number of items repaired.
Engagement with local community (workshop attendance, etc).
Rollout of Fixing Factories to other locations.