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Evanston Repair Café Means Business When They Say 'Never Take Broken For An Answer'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- What if we told you that there's a place for your broken things that isn't your trash can? A group of volunteers is asking you to bring it to them instead.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Marissa Parra takes us to the Evanston Repair Café.

They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, but at Evanston Repair Café, there's no such thing as trash at all.

"The impulse to throw something away after it breaks is rooted in the fear of asking for help," said volunteer Liam Ouweleen.

If there's one place to feel safe asking for help with fixing, it's at the Evanston Repair Café at the Robert Crown Community Center.

"This is a movement that started in the Netherlands," said Evanston Repair Café coordinator Bea Echeverria. "There are a lot of repair cafés all over the world."

The movement is to create hubs where people can bring their broken things for repair; an idea Echeverria recycled from overseas when she lived in Barcelona.

Europe has roughly 2,000 of these types of repair cafés, and Echeverria noticed North America has a little catching up to do, with fewer than 200 of them.

But the movement is growing, with three right here in our backyard; one in Oak Park, one in the Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago, and the newest one in Evanston.

"The system here promotes throwaway culture," Echeverria said. "If they have a toaster that breaks, they're like 'Oh, I'll just buy another one!"

She started and launched the Evanston Repair Café in 2018, taking flyers around town, soliciting the curious and the handy alike.

"We've moved around a bit, but I remember going to the civic center and said, 'Hey can we [hold] this here?' They said, 'Yeah, sure, let's try it for Earth Day,' and it's been going ever since," except for when they had to pause during COVID, she said.

It's part of an effort to create a more sustainable world.

"Landfills are filling, and it takes more energy to produce new things," said Ouweleen. "We have to stop relying on single-use items, and this cycle of throwing everything away."

Instead of taking your trash to the landfills piled with it, a pool of roughly 15 eager volunteers want to see if they can fix your trash instead.

"We see a lot of lamps, coffee machines, stereos," Ouweleen said.

From the smallest jewelry to the biggest wheels, volunteers like Ouweleen fix for fun, and they do it for free.

"Some of the things that come in, I didn't know, I didn't think to repair myself," he said.

Here, the only thing that needs tossing is "taking broken for an answer."

"This is something that empowers people, it's fun, it builds community, it takes stuff away from landfills," Echeverria said. "It's a win-win-win."

Bring your broken things to the Evanston Repair Café on Feb. 12, or learn to become a fixer yourself by heading to their website.


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