Trash district says: Don’t throw it away; fix it!

MIDDLEBURY — The garbage transfer station at the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD) in Middlebury each year receives tons of electronics, bikes, toys and other items people discard because they don’t know how to fix them.
District officials on June 16 will begin dispensing that fix-it knowledge to county residents in an effort to stem future waste from landing at the transfer station. We’re talking about Addison County’s first-ever Repair Café, slated for 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Middlebury Union High School cafeteria.
Headlining the café will be an experienced group of local do-it-yourself people who’ve successfully fired up that now-silent radio or stitched up the seam on that prized sweater. These folks will be on hand to troubleshoot visitors’ ailing items. If they can’t fix ’em, they’ll more than likely be able to tell you what’s wrong and what part(s) you need. And if they don’t have the expertise, they’ll tell you where you can get it  — either through a different expert or a YouTube video.
“The goal is to get people thinking about the value of repair, realizing things can have a future if they’re fixed instead of throwing them in the landfill,” said Annina Seiler, the ACSWMD’s public outreach coordinator. “Hopefully, people will leave with skills they can use on other items that may break.”
The Repair Café is free and open to anyone in the county. It will include free refreshments, children’s activities, raffle prizes, tools and materials.
Sarah Lundquist, an AmeriCorps member working with the district this summer, is taking a lead in organizing this maiden Middlebury Repair Café. It’s already proven itself as a waste-reduction activity in other parts of the state, nation and world. The Repair Café concept originated in the Netherlands in 2009, thanks to Amsterdam journalist Martine Postma. In 2010, she started the Repair Café Foundation (repaircafe.org), which provides support to local groups around the world looking to start their own Repair Café — including Middlebury’s.
Lundquist noted one of her AmeriCorps colleagues recently helped organize successful Repair Cafés for the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District. So she pitched the idea to her supervisory, ACSWMD Program Manager Don Maglienti, who along with Seiler encouraged her to create one for Addison County.
“With me coming here, it was the perfect opportunity for an AmeriCorps member to organize something like this,” Lundquist said.
She’s put a lot of work into it, beginning with reserving the venue and then reaching out to people with fix-it skills. As of late last week, Lundquist had confirmed 10 volunteers, ranging from self-proclaimed tinkerers to accomplished seamstresses. There’s also a bike repair expert and a couple of folks who know electrical wiring. Another helper has experience repairing furniture.
Organizers ask that people not bring very large items; instead bring photos. While the fixers might not be able to repair antiques such as clocks, they’ll probably be able to tell you where you can.
There’s a good chance many visitors will leave the café very happy.
“Our hope is that a majority of items will be able to be fixed right there,” she said.
It’s anyone’s guess as to how many people will show up to this first café.
A similar event held in Hardwick back on April 28 attracted around 50 people, according to Lundquist. A Repair Café held this past January in Barre drew around 80.
Michael Golden, specializing in small electronics, will be one of the volunteer repair people.
“I’m happy to donate my time to repair, and provide some guidance to repair, a few items that would have ended up being tossed away,” he said. “I realize not everything can be repaired easily, but sometimes you get lucky and the fixes are right in front of you. I hope it goes well. Should be a fun event.”
More information about the event can be found at addisoncountyrecycles.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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