If we don’t repair and re-use, then eco-disaster awaits

It's time we repaired things rather than chucked them out.

It's time we repaired things rather than chucked them out. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's time we rediscovered a make-do-and-mend approach to life, says Rachel Moore. Otherwise it's eco-disaster for all of us.

Perhaps it hits us all at a certain age, the shame about how each of us is wrecking the world by throwing so much away.

Chucking stuff away when we get bored with it, or because we think it doesn't work, we want new or simply want more is how we live these days.

We're filling giant holes in the ground with furniture, fittings, clothes, toys and a range of consumables that still have lots of life to give, but we simply want new.

Consumerism has made us value little, especially the environment, making us crave new because new is everywhere.

And new comes cheap now. Sofas, tables and televisions aren't bought to last; to buy once, look after to keep it going; they're bought with the expectation they will be replaced with a new model a few years down the line, dumped without a second thought.

People rip out their kitchens and bathrooms and replace them like they would once have bought a pair of shoes 'for best'.

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My wastorexic lightbulb moment came on Sunday, wandering through Norwich city centre. The shops were packed with people buying new stuff they didn't need to chuck away perfectly-serviceable stuff at home.

New-season clothes hang in the stores, throwaway clothes, cheap as chips and not made to last, made to wear a couple of times and throw away.

Just keeping one t-shirt for two years instead of one will save 24% on your carbon omissions. Add that up for everyone and imagine the impact that has on the world.

Living like this is unsustainable and, if we think it through properly, terrifying where it will end, being swamped and suffocated by stuff we hoodwink ourselves to believe just disappears and evaporates without trace when, deep down, we know is lurking deep under the ground in landfill.

The Dutch and French saw the light before us, with a make-do-and-mend trend breathing new life into many a toaster and iron that had more years to live.

Repair Cafes are popping up in retaliation to the piles of stuff chucked away with practically nothing wrong with them.

Launched in the Netherlands nine years ago, they are spreading across mainland Europe and slowly catching on here, with engineers, fixers, sewers and stickers getting together to encourage more longevity in the world.

We've forgotten to even think about trying to repair anything. 'It's just as cheap to buy new' has become our mantra, but so much that is discarded is mendable.

Toasters, kettles, lamps, irons, hair straighteners, bicycles, volunteer 'fix-perts' are setting up to fix broken but not worn out stuff; the kind of stuff that yesterday would have been chucked away and replaced without a second thought.

We need to spread this attitude so that binning something as a last resort, not the first thought.

Only then might our disposable world have a sustainable future.

We've been 'upcycling' for years, transforming old furniture into painted 'shabby chic' but that's more about taste than ethics. We'd still rather slather chalk paint on an old table but chuck away the lamp and toaster.

Years ago, families had one smallish dustbin. Today, each one has at least two large wheelie bins for waste and recyclables, which are filled effortlessly in a matter of days.

Shop shelves are stacked with food and goods in pointless packaging, swathes of plastic, which we have to hack through to get to our food, tossing the packaging in the bin.

We revel in our coffee culture, but the disposable cups we carry to work, in our cars and on the train are central to plastic pollution, not just of our land but also of our seas, killing wildlife, habitats - and hope.

The Government's spring statement called for evidence from industry, green groups and the public about how to cut the amount of plastic rubbish.

We are wasting our world, literally with 12 million tonnes of plastic entering the oceans every day. We produce too much so we use too much.

We need bolder quicker action than evidence gathering and that needs to start with us all cutting our own waste and making do and mending.

If you must buy coffee on the go, at least take a reusable cup, and seek out – or set up – a repair café.