Salem’s volunteer recycling committee hosts ‘Repair Cafe’

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Volunteers work on rewiring a lamp brought into the Repair Cafe hosted by SalemRecycles on Aug 5. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Lipson)On Aug. 5, SalemRecycles, a 14-member volunteer committee, hosted its first successful Repair Café.
About 40 people – plus 20 to 25 volunteers and “tinkerers” – came to the event with about 130 items to be fixed, said SalemRecycles Business Manager Julie Rose. A variety of repairs were made to clothing, small home appliances, furniture, jewelry and electronics.
“This was one of our best events yet,” Rose said, adding that the committee has plans to host a second event in November. “One of the reasons it was so successful is because of the support from Mayor [Kim] Driscoll.”
The “repair café” model, which originated in Amsterdam in 2009, now boasts 1,300 cafés worldwide. There are only about 16 groups in Massachusetts.
SalemRecycles members were introduced to the concept at a talk given by Ray Pfau of Stow. Thinking it could work on the North Shore, the committee connected with Pfau, visited other events, and dug into the online resources available at
The committee partnered with The Bridge at 211, a nonprofit that offers community programming and space, to host the Aug. 5 event, which was free to the public.
One of the most popular tables was a sharpening station for knives and scissors, with equipment provided by Pfau. The “tinkerers,” who worked for free, were a combination of committee members and volunteers. The committee used a survey and word of mouth to recruit people to lend their skills for free.
“It was a little challenging to get people at first,” Rose said. “We had [people who came to the event] sign a waiver. We are all volunteers and might or might not be able to fix their item.”
SalemRecycles, which includes emeritus members, works in the community to increase recycling and promote positive recycling practices. The committee has been recognized for its programming and initiatives in the past, most recently with an MMA Innovation Award in 2017.
The committee had previously promoted the idea of repairing items in order to reduce trash by blogging about area businesses that could fix common items.
SalemRecycles has an active Facebook page to help promote its events, as well as a popular email newsletter.