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Earth Hardware Technology

The Dutch Repair Cafe Versus the Throwaway Society 368

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-it-ain't-broke dept.
circletimessquare writes "Everyone in the modern world has thrown away at least one thing that was perfectly good except for an easily fixed defect, because it's just easier to buy a new one. In the Netherlands, in the name of social cohesion, and with government and private foundation grants, there is a trend called the Repair Cafe (Dutch). People bring in broken items: a skirt with a hole in it, an iron that no longer steams, and they fix each other's stuff and meet their neighbors. Now that's an idea worth keeping."
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The Dutch Repair Cafe Versus the Throwaway Society

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  • by DoubleSandwich (2637131) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:13AM (#39966441)
    When American population just sits at home watching TV or playing video games, Europeans and especially Dutch tend to spend time together. Sit at cafes getting high, eat at a restaurant and have some fine wine, and socialize with people. The same is true for Asians and Australians too. And the American people introvert culture isn't a new thing that came with computers - they did this before geeks too. Sitting in front of TV watching mindless shows and eating TV dinners, alone.

    One great geeky example about Americans making artificial social walls around them is how quick companies were to replace LAN gaming with online gaming so that you could sit alone and not interact with people. I live in asia and when people play games, they go play them with friends to internet cafes. There's a place near me where there is always young guys gaming together. There's a huge cultural difference between US and the rest of the world.

    As the saying goes - "We have the technology, we can build anti-social walls around us!"
  • by vawwyakr (1992390) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:16AM (#39966477)
    We throw away perfectly working pieces of tech. Thing accumulate around the house and just become clutter to be picked up and tossed during a spring cleaning. The problem is that newer tech makes it so that almost no one even wants old laptops and such. Then there is the risk that there is something person stuck somewhere inside and you have to spend extra effort clearing it completely to be safe if you want to give it away. I have an old laptop sitting around that I have run some clean up tools on and I'm still not quite ready to put it up on Freecycle. We really need better recycling programs for old Phones, batteries, etc. People are going to just want something new when the new thing is 100x better than the old thing even if the old thing still works.
  • Quality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:18AM (#39966499)

    Things are generally made extremely cheaply these days, and are not designed for repair, so it does make things a bit more difficult than it used to be. In many cases there are tear-down videos and instructions for things available on the internet, so I think this balances out nicely. It's a great chance to learn how things work and teach other as well. I'd really like to see this done in North America, perhaps as a school fund-raising project or something.

  • by phonewebcam (446772) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:21AM (#39966535) Homepage

    The Americans have had a go but just made things worse. Any chance some of this Dutch magic will help?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:25AM (#39966599)

    It's not called soccer, it is called football, since you actually have to use your foot to get the ball somewhere else. What you call football is some form of rugby for sissies to afraid for physical contact.

  • by Guppy (12314) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:26AM (#39966615)

    This would be a great idea for a Makerspace trying to attract more people/funding.

    You've already got tools and a core of tinkerers that know how to fix stuff -- if you could draw in a broader audience from the community, you could make some extra money selling them drinks and munchies, and possibly convert some people to the hobby.

  • LAN to online-only (Score:5, Insightful)

    by naroom (1560139) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:28AM (#39966655)

    It was done because it offers you the ability to play with people in either scenario, no matter how far away they were.

    No. Local play was replaced by internet play because it was seen as more profitable by the games industry to enforce DRM online.
    If it were truly about adding features, LAN / local play would still be enabled on Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, and Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games.

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:28AM (#39966659)

    Exchanging services is barter, which is subject to taxes. Did you pay your taxes?

    Only idiots would do that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:29AM (#39966667)

    The real problem is with lifecycle sustainability.

    If raw material sourcing is sustainable, and disposal is as well, then there is no problem with the "throwaway" culture. The "throwaway" culture frees up repairmen to pursue more useful or enjoyable things by using machines to alleviate their burden.

    Technology is a separate issue. As technology gets better and better, why should we spend so much repairing it? The recent advances in reducing power consumption and doing more processing in hardware is a good thing. Getting rid of a several year old computer is like getting a gas guzzling junker off the road.

    The ecological aversion to the "throwaway" culture comes from a time where reuse and repair was seen as necessary to the inherent unsustainable sourcing and landfill disposal. Once those problems are addressed we must reexamine our assumptions about the value of reuse and repair.

  • by Ameryll (2390886) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:30AM (#39966681)

    It's a sad fact of life that in the U.S. it is often cheaper to replace something than it is to repair it. With electronics you have the added penalty that you're often repairing something that's now slower than the replacement.

    A sign of our times

    I was babysitting a 5 year old in high school and she had this alphabet book of professions. U = upholsterer. She asked me what that was. I told her it was someone who repaired or replaced the fabric on your couch. She asked me why you didn't throw it out and get a new one. That it didn't even occur to her that someone might want to try to fix something rather than just dump it in a landfill somewhere really struck me.

  • by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:30AM (#39966695) Homepage Journal

    Yes, No one in Europe or Asia ever used force to get their way.

    I mean, really? Come on.

  • by GNious (953874) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:31AM (#39966721)

    Couldn't you have posted this while I still had modpoints?!?

    (and: He is right, it is called Football, and the american football is wussyball compared to e.g. aussie rules)

  • by GNious (953874) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:34AM (#39966761)

    I have a simple solution: Give it away.

    I've got a pile of tech-stuff that I no longer need, but instead of throwing it out, I'll give to anyone who wants/needs it.
    (was surprised to find someone who had never had a DVD player - well, she does now!)

  • by Eraesr (1629799) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:42AM (#39966863) Homepage

    When American population just sits at home watching TV or playing video games, Europeans and especially Dutch tend to spend time together. Sit at cafes getting high, eat at a restaurant and have some fine wine, and socialize with people. The same is true for Asians and Australians too. And the American people introvert culture isn't a new thing that came with computers - they did this before geeks too. Sitting in front of TV watching mindless shows and eating TV dinners, alone

    Sounds beautiful, no really. But I live in the Netherlands and you have no idea how wrong you are. For the past 30 years (at least), the Netherlands has been "individualizing" at an alarming rate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:43AM (#39966883)

    Wussyball? I'd say brain-damageball...

  • by GunSheep (982756) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:49AM (#39966961)
    At this point friends and family are the only PC's I work on. They at least understand the concept of returning the favor in some way/shape/form. I stopped doing that for anyone else.
  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:55AM (#39967035) Homepage

    If you repair some electrical device for someone else, and at some point down the line it starts a fire or electrocutes someone, you could easily be held liable here in the US, whether your repair had anything to do with it or not. And half-assed repairs done by well-meaning but untrained people are just BEGGING for trouble. From the NYT article (emphasis mine):

    When Mr. van den Akker put the iron back together, two parts were left over â" no matter, he said, they were probably not that important. He plugged the frayed cord into a socket. A green light went on. Rusty water poured out. Finally, it began to steam.

    Actual repair shops carry insurance for such eventualities, but random folks at a "repair cafe" wouldn't.

  • by plover (150551) * on Friday May 11, 2012 @09:55AM (#39967039) Homepage Journal

    Complementary to your comment, we have a lot of tech that was created so long ago that it's terribly inefficient and should best be retired. Consider an old machine with an Athlon 1200 CPU, drawing 330 watts of power while an Intel i5-2400 based machine draws only 75 watts. Consider an old hard drive that draws 30 watts to spin at idle, compared to a modern drive that uses 8 watts to do the same, or a SSDD that draws 0.14 watts. Or consider a CRT monitor drawing 120W compared to a newer LCD that draws 22W.

    Yes, I get that obviously there are things that people can't afford to replace today, and when repairing them for free is an option, it'll happen. But these old devices still cost them tremendously on their electric bills. I believe the Dutch pay somewhere around $0.40/kWh, meaning that an old PC there would cost over $4 per day to run, compared to a new efficient machine that would cost less than $1 per day. And that new machine would certainly have better performance, more capabilities, and likely better security (not that I want to get into a big debate about it, but running Windows 7 and IE 9 instead of XP and IE 6 would be a big improvement for most home user's security.)

    Some working things should be retired.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Friday May 11, 2012 @10:04AM (#39967139)

    You twits named it soccer, you've just forgotten.

  • by martyros (588782) on Friday May 11, 2012 @10:21AM (#39967337)

    Of course, the piece-of-crap "modern" couch my wife bought 7 years ago that I thought was the most uncomfortable thing ever was burned at last year's bonfire party.....

    ...thus contributing to "survivor bias", reinforcing the future's views that things made in the 2000's are a heck of a lot better than the things made in 2045.

    Not saying the new couch wasn't crap; just saying, you didn't see couches of that quality made in 1965 because they were all burned by 1972. :-)

  • LAN vs online (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Friday May 11, 2012 @10:25AM (#39967379) Journal

    Actually, I think that the rise of internet gaming VS LAN gaming has several factors, few of them due to being antisocial. I still do LAN game but play online as well at times
    The bad...
    a) Convenience: Pack up your oversized gaming PC, monitor etc. Drag them to somebody's house, possibly popping a few vertebra hauling crap around. Plug into power for 3 daisy-chained power bars and an ethernet cable that is just a bit too short. Pop a few breakers until you figure out who plugs in where. After an hour you might actually get things ready to play.

    b) Availability: Try and figure out what you're all going to play. Six of us want to play Shooter Game X, but Bob only wants to play RTS's. Everyone finally agrees on game Y, except John who doesn't have it and needs to install/download. By the time John installs, everyone else has played up and is moving on to another game

    c) Play games on a LAN that still need an internet connection. Lag occurs. People get dropped, and even though you're all trying to play with only those in your room, hackerKid239 joins the game and headshots every one of you within 2.5 seconds whilst insulting your mom

    d) Several makes of various shapes and sizes drinking, eating greasy food, and fit into a small poorly ventilated room. 'nuff said

    The good...
    a) Social: You get to visit with your buds, have a few drinks perhaps etc. While loading you can trade funny youtube clips or photoshopped pictures of Bob's wife
    b) Private LAN games: For games that actually allow it, being able to play with your buds and *NOT* hackerKid239 is fun
    c) Trading: Although arguments over what to play may arise, you get to see what other cool games people in your group have. Rather than spending 5h downloading, buy the game in steam and then snag the install files from a USB drive being passed around

  • Even the metals aren't worth much. PCBs aren't made with gold any more.

    It's actually cheaper to mine recycled electronics for minerals than dig it out of the ground - the amount of stuff you have to sift through is far less, so there's value there.

    It's not just gold - but copper, tantalum, aluminum, etc. All valuable metals and all far cheaper to extract from ground up electronics than digging it out.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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