The idea for the Repair Cafe was originally conceived in 2009 by Martine Postma, a Dutch journalist, who began with the idea that we could reduce what we put in landfills by taking the time and energy to repair, rather than to replace. The premise is simple: the Café furnishes all the tools and materials one might need to repair or mend a wide variety of household items, including clothes, bicycles, furniture, and electrical appliances. People who need things repaired are paired with specialists, and an emphasis is placed on teaching the owner how to repair the item independently.
The process is meant to transcend a mere market transaction. Those seeking repairs do not just come by and drop off a broken item to be picked up later. Instead, the visitor and the specialist sit down together, explore the problem, and devise a solution, leading to increased social capital.
This process is also meant to be a provocation: the culture created within a repair café encourages people to think differently about the items of their everyday life. Instead of immediately throwing something away and buying a new one, people are exposed to an alternative. Many household items are easily repaired with the right skills and tools. The process, therefore, engenders both ecological and social benefits in the setting of a relaxed café.
Beyond the original location in the Netherlands, Repair Cafés have spread to Belgium, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and dozens of other countries around the world. Currently, there are over 2,000 Repair Cafés in almost forty countries, all operated on a volunteer basis.