By Saleem Siddiqui
– St. James Town Press, November 2021 edition –

Welcome to Fall Fix-it Saturday.  Do you have any home or electronic appliances that need to be fixed? At the St. James Town Community Corner, we do all kinds of fixing to reduce waste and reuse items.  As part of Canadian Waste Reduction Week, a walkin repair session was organised on the 23rd of October in partnership with Repair Cafe’ Toronto.  

“If you can carry it, we can fix it.” Our volunteer “fixers” educate people about the core values of reusing and recycling items that many of us throw away because we assume they are not working – not giving them a second thought.  The Repair Café gives things a second chance by bringing them back to life. The fixers can repair almost anything depending on how severe the damage is, which means sometimes the items are used or misused to an extent where it is best to recycle the parts to fix other items.  

Fixing can be fun and exciting; it is also a learning process for our volunteers who give their time and experience to helping solve problems.  Fixing clothes and jewellery is not an easy job but we have an 80% success rate with these items.  Unlike other products, clothes and jewellery don’t have too many built in components, therefore are not that complex.  With clothing, we either deal with alterations, patching damaged areas, or making new designs using other clothes. Similarly with jewellery and accessories, we might have some minor items missing like screws in sunglasses, watches that need batteries and adjusting the wristband; and reusing broken bangles to fix a particular piece of jewellery.

When we fix appliances, we tend to deal with major defects that arise with daily usage.  Having gained a better understanding of how things operate, our fixers can repair many items for our clients.  Not all items are fixable but that doesn’t stop us from brainstorming new ideas and how to improvise and reuse things.  Let’s look at a blender – something some of us use every day – as an example of what can go wrong.  The common issue we face is the thermal fuse that tends to blow up and is hard to find inside the motor coil.  Another example is a toaster where sometimes the levels don’t operate – not heating up the bread.  The defect is not simple, as it has a magnet inside the body of the toaster with some parts not working properly.  To fix these issues we have to work around all the components to resolve the problem.  We have a 70% success rate in repairing appliances.  

When it comes to fixing digital electronics, the task is a bit harder and the recovery rate is about 60%.  The problems we face as fixers for these products involve the circuit board and the small components they have inside them.  If one or two of these components gets damaged we can replace them, but imagine if we have ten or twenty defects. That would be expensive and also time consuming to fix without having new technology to replace the defective parts. 

Fixing and re-using items can help us both financially and environmentally.  We have to think about how we can help each other in today’s growing and demanding world where one has to constantly look for resources that may be difficult to find.  Repair Café Toronto tries to help people create a more sustainable society by rejecting the throwaway mentality and giving everyday items that we rely on, a second life – keeping that extra money in our pockets!