The fourth ‘R’: Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle – and Repair

Home News & Events Latest News The fourth ‘R’: Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle – and Repair

Repairing is the new, on-trend ‘R’ in waste reduction. The concept of the 3Rs – reduce, re-use, recycle – was originally developed by WRAP (Waste Resources Action Plan). Now repair cafés are starting up across the country, mainly in the larger cities where there is a greater pool of expertise.

Repair Cafe Bath

Bath Repair Café was started in April this year by Lorna Montgomery with the support of B&NES Environmental Services. These repair sessions have proved very popular, with greatest demand for bike repairs and repairs of electrical goods. Bath Repair Cafés are held on the third Saturday of the month at New Oriel Hall, Larkhall. Time Bank Plus in Twerton will be holding monthly repair cafes from September, in conjunction with Bath Repair Café.

Bath Repair Cafe have a great team of repairers but would like to hear from anyone with computer skills or general mending skills to become a regular or fill-in repairer, They would also be interested in anyone getting involved with the general administration or development of the group (contact Lorna at )

There was a major West of England consultation on waste management (disposal), called “Rubbish or Resource?” eight years ago. Some of us responded that there should be greater effort further back in the waste hierarchy. We argued then, and have done so more recently, that there are economic opportunities at B&NES recycling centres for repairing a significant proportion of the waste sent for landfill or sold on as scrap. This concept is being developed in New York, where the Department of Sanitation plans to make repair and re-use “a mainstream operation” as part of its zero-waste drive.

Big Mend

The re-visioning of the ‘rag-and-bone-man’ mentioned in the New York article is aided by using a different vocabulary: re-use to re-make and “up-cycling”. Some of the most popular items for repair and re-making are textiles. The Big Mend is a long-established Bath group who repair textiles, either conventionally or in an unusual, decorative way. They appreciate wabi sabi (the celebration of imperfection). They’re also interested in Craftivism, and have been running a #heartstrings project using fabric scraps. The group meets on the last Wednesday of the month at the Museum of Bath at Work. There’ll be a session on Wednesday 26th July, 6-8pm, and everyone is welcome (bring your own project or help make some hearts).

For comments and enquiries arising from this piece, contact Virginia Williamson on

Update 26.07.17: Interesting article on how much better re-using is than recycling.