Mechanical Engineering


Sustainability Success: Repair Café saves hundreds of items from landfill

14 November 2023

Last week’s Repair Café was a roaring success, with over 300 UCL students, staff and members of the public coming to get their broken items fixed, saving masses of household items from going to waste.

Photo of the workshop very busy with people

Hosted by MechSpace, Sustainable UCL, the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the Institute of Making, the Repair Café was a hive of activity, with hundreds of people coming to learn how to repair their broken possessions. This sustainability initiative focuses on preventing masses of unnecessary waste from being sent to landfills and teaches individuals how they can repair their items at home in the future.

The event kicked off with a talk on sustainability, the environment and the benefits of repairing, instead of replacing. Given by Danielle Purkiss, who is part of the Big Repair Project, the Plastic Waste Hub and the Institute of Making, the talk was a fascinating start to the event, as she highlighted the added benefit of running events like the Repair Café and inspired us to think more carefully about what at home could be fixed, rather than binned.

Dr Andrea Grech La Rosa (left) and Danielle Purkiss

The Repair Café was spread across various workshops at UCL Mechanical Engineering’s MechSpace facility based in Kings Cross, central London. Items that were fixed included:

Photo of the jewellery repair station
  • jewellery
  • textiles, like shoes, bags and watches
  • electronics, such as phones, radios and toasters
  • ceramics, like chipped mugs and smashed plates
  • and much more

One suitcase even got repaired with a 3D-printed replacement part!

The Repair Café was also a great opportunity to learn how to fix problems in the future. Colleagues from the Institute of Making were helping teach people to sew and were giving new life to damaged ceramics. Our MechEng engineers were also helping explain how problems arose and what to do in the future.

Photo of the ceramic repair station

One happy ‘customer’ and UCL student, Burcak Bayram, was pleased when she had finished sewing and reattaching the strap of her favourite tote bag. She said:

“I’m so happy, it is very sentimental. It’s from a bookshop in Türkiye, with characters of the Armenian alphabet. I didn’t want to just throw it away, it would’ve been so hard to replace.”

Burcak Bayram and her repaired tote bag

MechSpace Repair Shop

For those who missed this event on Friday 10 November, we have officially launched the year-round MechSpace Repair Shop – an online portal where you can submit your items for repair, and one of the MechSpace mentors will review and repair your item.

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