/ Home & Energy

Do you make do and mend?

Men knitting

Environment minister Lord de Mauley says we send too much to landfill and should make do and recycle more. What would get you to make do, mend and sell on eBay?

I see nothing wrong with a bit of ‘make do and mend’. In fact I have a reputation for doing so  – but I needed the knowledge and confidence to take that first step.

For instance, my first few eBay transactions only took place because I was reassured that the site was safe and protected. However, as we’ve found, there are still fakes out there. Similarly, I was sceptical of joining ZipCar – an example of ‘making do’ rather than having my own vehicle – until I was reassured it’d be worth it.

Getting the know-how

The knowledge that something is actually possible is also needed. I used to throw out stale bread and bones until Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall showed me that making croutons, breadcrumbs and stock was quick and simple. Now we have some very tasty meals. I’m sure many of you have families who pass down this knowledge, but others, like me, had to be shown it was possible and how to do it.

Friends can help too. We recently bought a house and had an old dining table and chairs donated. The chairs were a bit tatty, but we didn’t realise that it was fairly painless to recover them until friends told us that they’d done the same before. In the end it only cost us about £10 a chair.

Something for nothing

Knowing that quality can come for nothing was also worth discovering. It’s something that Kirstie Allsopp has been championing on Channel 4 in her show Fill Your House for Free. Even demanding people like me can still get good freebies. I wanted an extra bookshelf and had very particular demands (it had to be the right size and made from solid wood). Yet, after only three weeks of keeping an eye on Gumtree, I found one. And I could only collect it because I had a ZipCar van.

Of course, I can’t do everything myself. I have a solid mahogany desk that was tatty and in pieces when I saw it in the restorer’s yard. But, thanks to the expert restorer, it now looks as good as when it was first built two centuries ago.

Despite this, I wonder what else I’m missing out on due to a lack of awareness of either the expert who can fix something up for a good price, the seller who’s keen to shift something, or the simple skills needed to do it myself.

Have I, Kirstie Allsopp and Lord de Mauley convinced you to make do and mend? Or are you already a pro at repairing? If so, what’s been your proudest achievement?

Comments
Profile photo of John Ward
Member

An enormous quantity of household articles get tipped into landfill sites because environmental legislation and municipal refuse collection & disposal systems have made it very difficult to dispose of unwanted goods easily and economically. Local councils charge a fortune to collect old furniture and appliances; I suspect a high percentage of what they do collect is dumped rather than recycled. Getting private clearance dealers to take things away is fraught with complications and liabilities. Charities are becoming increasingly picky over what they will and will not take for resale and are not as helpful as they make out [anything upholstered is always a problem]. I can see why waste carriers have to be licensed and why every load has to have a transfer note but the controls and costs in place lead to the temptation for people to break things up and hide them in the wheelie bin or dump them in a place where they know the council will eventually scavenge them. Now that ‘upcycling’ is the vogue in trendy metropolitan communities there is some hope for the “Contemporary” stereogram cabinets and “Utility” wardrobes that otherwise get wasted but this is only nibbling at the edge of the problem and many of us do not live within economical haulage distance of such opportunities. As it happens we are in the process of restoring to use a 1950’s sideboard-c*m-cocktail cabinet which, with its walnut veneers, bakelite handles, and internal mirrors and strip lights, will look gorgeously incompatible among our modern furniture; it languished in a relative’s house and was due to be scrapped when we took another look and thought we could make a feature out of it.

Member
Sian says:
10 August 2013

Older people know all about making do and mending. We only started losing that knowledge when things became cheap and easily available to buy new.
I’m either an expert at making do and mending or well on the way to becoming a hoarder. I save old magazines for my daughters to cut up to decorate greetings cards and calendars, I save jiffy bags and bubble wrap to reuse, takeaway containers for freezing home made food.
I wouldn’t dream of buying myself a new book, always the library or bought second hand to raise money for a good cause, or just plain borrowed.
My 15 year old canvas, steel framed tent had a mishap recently, and having failed to find the spare part I needed, I was resigning myself to having to buy a new tent when I found a welder who repaired the mangled piece of frame, for the vast sum of £2.
If only shoes and printers could be so easily repared. That’s why I’m on here, to find a printer that lasts longer than the warranty period!

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Secondhand furniture is probably the best bargain you can get. Wooden furniture is cheap and relatively easy to restore. Liberon do a whole series of easy-to-use products; I use cleaner and restorer that removes grime and marks before using wax polish (don’t use one containing silicone). At worst, strip off the finish and use finishing or Danish oil to get a moisture resistant silky finish.

Profile photo of Dave494
Member

Sadly things are made cheaper and do not last. I’m aware that most people will buy things that are in fashion, such as black and chrome small appliances at the moment, then replace them with the next fashionable colour, even if some of the previous “non-fashionable” appliances still work.

Since most people seem to prefer buying household goods as cheaply as possible and avoid the “expensive” items, now we have products which are only made in China now and cannot be repaired – only replaced, e.g. toasters, kettles, microwaves, printers, alarm clock and so on. The only “repair” you can make is to glue broken plastic parts together with Araldite, but any repairs to the inside stand no chance, and the manufacturers know this – try getting a replacement heating element for a new kettle!

I would be more than happy to buy “expensive” products if they can be repaired rather than thrown out. How will people dispose of future “made in China” products, which cannot be repaired, when landfill space runs out?

Profile photo of looping
Member

Which is complicit in this matter. It should only award a “Best buy” status for products where the appropriate repair manual is available. For example, I just purchased a Best Buy lawnmower, but there is no workshop manual available on the manufacturer’s website nor obtainable from dealers.

Of course, there is such a manual. Obviously. Indeed, my mower was delivered with a faulty carburettor. Only discovered on unpacking. Rather than return the whole mower: a major repacking task, I agreed to fit a replacement carburettor myself. The replacement part was accompanied by a photocopy of the relevant page of the workshop manual.

Why is it that Which reviews do not include the availablity of repair documentation and spares where appropriate (which is almost always)?

So long as this sharp practice is allowed to continue, make do and mend is always going to be far more difficult and expensive than it need be.

Member
Steve Ellis says:
10 August 2013

My family and friends know me as a fixer. I tell them off if they try to replace something that I haven’t looked at first. Most of the time parts for all sorts of things can be easily sourced via the internet and You Tube is great for “How to Dos”. I once fixed a dead 40″ Samsung TV that my sister was going to dump for £1.78. It now has pride of place in her Bedroom.

Member
Gerard Phelan says:
10 August 2013

But should landfill be our only consideration? If I soldier on with my 35 year old pots and pans, whose ceramic lining has worn thin, rather than buying a new set for say £200 am I not depriving my fellow citizens, (who might be readers here) of the wages from of manufacturing those pots and pans, the wages from delivering them to the local shop and the wages from selling them to me. Not forgetting the wages of the council recycling teams who would deal with the old ones.

Given that the money I would use is currently earning almost no interest, is it not indeed my DUTY to the unemployed to throw away all my old goods and buy new ones?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

That is the way the economy works – replacing things that stop functioning, or things that are unfashionable. You could have a repair and refurbish culture if it wasn’t for the generally high cost of labour. However, I have two high mileage cars on which I replace failed parts and reckon that is cheaper than buying newer cars, and my mobile phone is now 7 years old and going strong.

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
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Being your ‘duty’ is beyond me, seems like one for any economists we have on here! This sounds like a Keynsian argument a la paying men to dig then fill holes versus the Austrian school of thought that those workers should be retrained to produce something else.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I mend rather than make do and mend. I don’t see the point in throwing away something that I can repair easily, unless what is on sale is considerable better than the faulty item.

If I like a product I will spend time and effort to keep it working. For example, I have a Philips washing machine that is over 30 years old and I want to keep it because it is hot & cold fill and rinses properly, unlike many modern machines.

Carrying out repairs can be a challenge because many smaller items are designed for ease of assembly rather than taking them apart for repair. Recently, I changed the batteries in a 12 year old Braun rechargeable shaver which was starting to lose power. It was simply a case of soldering in new batteries and spending half an hour trying to work out how to put it back together. I had bought a new Braun shaver recently, but was very disappointed in it, so I want to keep the old one going, and with new batteries it is as good as new.

Power adapters sometimes die or the lead gets damaged, but it is not difficult to make up something using adapters and leads from discarded equipment.

Circuit boards can be very expensive, despite the fact that the components on them are usually not expensive. Often faulty components are overheated and replacing them can repair the board, even if you don’t understand much about electronics. By installing heavier duty components, it is not difficult to produce a circuit board that is likely to be more reliable than a new one.

Parts that are no longer available or expensive can often be made from bits and pieces from the junk box. For example, I made my own rubber rollers to keep an expensive Hewlett Packard laser printer working for a further two years.

It is an interesting challenge to repair household goods, so give it a go. There are helpful videos online and even the poor ones can often be helpful to show how to take things apart.

David has commented on goods produced in China being of poor quality, but that is not always so. Just don’t expect high quality if you pay very cheap prices.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Completely agree Wavechange. I get a lot of satisfaction in fixing things.

It started when I was young and broke with old TVs and my first old banger. A course in car maintenance helped and cheap tools bought then are still going strong and better quality than high cost ones now. Even now when I can afford to replace things, I still look at repairing myself or getting it repaired especially if it is something I really like.

I have never needed a computer engineer either to fix or update components and am amazed at the extortionate fees some people have been charged. After someone I know had an engineer around for something, they then charged another £45 to remove the message that said the system configuration had been changed!

Whenever we buy something new, I search the internet for additional documentation especially service manuals that are sometimes available but not included with the bought item. Also found the internet very helpful with videos etc.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Alfa

There are a few of us who enjoy fixing things on Which? Conversation. 🙂 I’ve been repairing electronics since electronic equipment had valves, rather than transistors and ICs. Main libraries used to have books with circuit diagrams and information about common faults found on most of the popular TVs, radios, etc. Nowadays we have YouTube videos and forums to discuss problems.

It’s well worth investing in some tools to make repairs easier, and considering what I have saved by doing repairs, I do not regret the cost. Nowadays it is important to have tools to remove the special security screws that manufacturers are fond of using to discourage us from dismantling their products. Learning how to solder is useful too. Taking photos before and during dismantling is a great help to ensure that everything gets put back together correctly.

Computer repairs are one area where DIY repairs are still quite common.

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
Member

Glad to see other fixers on here but it may be a diminishing trend. From my own experience newer items aren’t as easily designed to repair. For instance iPads and the newer Mac laptops are near impossible for users to repair. When my iPad had a minor problem with 3G reception Apple just swapped it for a new one.

By contrast I am working on trying to repair a 70-year-old Enfield clock whose mechanism stopped suddenly. Though I’ve only managed to get the chime working I do like that I can at least give it a go (seeing as I only paid £50 for the clock and a professional would want £150 to fix it I see it as a good investment of my time too). A good book and as you say, some decent tools have helped with this.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

A mechanical clock is relatively easy to work on, whereas a wrist watch is not. Perhaps this is the earliest example of cramming a lot of parts into a small space to provide portability.

The difficulty in repairing modern laptops, tablets and phones is because of strong consumer demand for thin and light products. Apple is not very different from some other manufacturers in this respect. What I strongly criticise them for is producing goods where the user cannot easily replace the battery. My MacBook Pro battery has already done 664 charge cycles and when it starts to lose capacity I will tackle the replacement myself if I can buy a genuine replacement battery.

Member
Mike Lodge says:
10 August 2013

At last someone has taken their head out of the sand and started saying what some of us have been trying to do for years. As an inveterate mender of anything that’s broken I have long been appalled at the principle of shipping stuff halfway across the world (mostly China) only for it to break down 18 months later, and then be presumably dumped because no-one has the spares available at an economic level in order to try to fix it. The manufacturers are culpable on several levels: a) designed-in obsolescence in the first instance; b) non-accessibility of spares or repair manuals; hideous pricing of those spares they deem to make available via their own service departments.
Two recent examples: a friend asked me to look at her Husqvarna sewing machine, as she has been quoted £1500 (yes, £1.5K !!!) by a manufacturer’s agent to repair it. The power supply was found to be faulty – you can pretty much guarantee that it is purely converting 240v into something useable like 12v and 5v for the computery bits, but as there is no labelling of any components on the circuit board and a total dearth of circuit diagrams on the net or anywhere, this is a problem. You can pretty much guarantee that the total component cost to repair it would be less than £10 but there we are – held to ransom. An off the shelf power supply from Maplin or somewhere could probably be made to do the job, but how to connect it in ?
The other example is our Miele dishwasher. I totally accept that 13years isn’t bad for a dishwasher, but that was the point in paying Miele prices. Anyway – £140 for a callout, without parts, is somewhat taking the pee methinks. The faulty component, when examined, comprised of a reed switch, plastic mouldings and an ‘O’ ring. Total cost of the tired items (reed switch and ‘O’ ring) would be approx £2. How many people would have dumped the dishwasher before this stage ?
I do not accept the comment from Gerard above saying it is our duty to buy new stuff. The planet cannot take the energy input and waste disposal penalty of such a policy. Has it not been proven that the energy consumed in purely producing a new car is far in excess of any energy efficiency saving it might have over the older models still on the road that have already been built ? Hence running old bangers, however currently energy inefficient, is on balance still the most economic solution. And, if old enough, can probably still be repaired relatively cheaply compared to new ones stuffed with electronic gizmos that cost a fortune to replace. Would it not be better to keep people employed in this country repairing them than subsidise a foreign country to build them new that then fall apart in 7 years time? (Daily Telegraph’s stated life of a modern car, 2012).

Come the Revolution one of the Manifesto pledges would be to force all manufacturers to make technical and spares paperwork freely available, and cap every spare part to a level such that the equipment could be built from spares at a price not exceeding the retail price +20%.

Totally agree with other comments ref. repairing toasters, kettles, etc etc – wasteful not to be able to. And totally concur with the recycling of old furniture in particular: modern woodwork is shoddily made, using cheap materials, and far far too expensive for what it is compared to even moderate quality items of yesteryear. Modern stuff is, yet again, a triumph of style over substance, and we as consumers are conned because it is made to look cosmetically pretty. Delve beneath the veneer and you find MDF and chipboard. Has anyone ever seen the frame of a sofa before they buy one? You’d be appalled at the nastiness of the whole contraption. No longevity designed in beyond making it stand up long enough to get out of the showroom.

I would encourage everyone that is of a similar mindset to make use of Freecycle, who’s raison d’etre is to keep stuff out of landfill.
Also agree that it should be a cornerstone of Which’s test and examination of products to examine economic repairability as part of their overall assessment. It’s only by pressurising manufacturers that any change will happen.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Mike

I very much agree that we should get back to products that can be repaired rather than thrown away after a couple of years, and the importance of having service information, parts lists and circuit diagrams readily available.

I doubt that the UK government will do anything to deal with the problem of poor quality goods that are difficult to repair. Hopefully the EU will. In my view, the best way forward is to make it a requirement to provide a ten year manufacturer’s guarantee on most consumer items. That would exclude phones, computers and anything else where technology is advancing fast. I want to see the length of guarantee introduced by Which? as one of the factors in selecting products as Best Buys. One of the advantages of compelling manufacturers to offer decent warranties is that it effectively compels them not to use cheap and sometimes under-rated components, to avoid them the cost of carrying out repairs.

Miele etc. may produce better quality goods than cheaper manufacturers, but expensive products often contain sub-standard components. If you take things apart when they fail, you can prove this for yourself.

I think the comment by Gerard was just to provoke comment. If he has a set of 35 year old pans, he is probably keen on durability. 🙂

Member
Steve Ellis says:
10 August 2013

There are many places in this world that are built on a repair culture. One of them that I visit regularly is Malta They have an amazing industry of fixers, predominantly in the vehicle area. Until recently, when the EU got their grubby mits on them, they had an amazing Bus network of 1950/60’s buses, privately owned, maintained and run. Arriva now runs their buses with many of the old London bendy buses and replaced 600 privately owned with 200 Arriva buses. Result is, you can’t get on a bus because they are always full and for visitors tickets now cost €2 a trip as opposed to about 12p per journey in the old buses. The new ones might be more fuel efficient but how about the pollution of production of the new buses against the reuse and repair of the old ones? Bloody EU… they are wrong !!! Repair and Reuse causes far less pollution in the long run.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Steve

I am a great believer in repair and reuse, but I have suffered from severe asthma since a child and until we got rid of most of the smoky diesel engines from our cities, I really suffered in city centres. Introduction of cleaner diesel engines, diesel particulate filters and use of low sulphur diesel have been a huge benefit to me. Exhaust fumes are not good for anyone, even if they are not aware of a problem. I hope that legislation to improve air quality will be reflected in a decrease in severe respiratory problems.

There is so much scope for moving to a repair culture, but I really don’t think it is a clever idea to keep smoky diesel engines running when new ones create so little air pollution by comparison.

Member
Steve Ellis says:
11 August 2013

Good point well made. My son has asthma and lives in London. Unfortunately he has not detected much change over the years, so personally I’m not sure on this one. He has been going to Malta for years and commented on his Asthma being much better over there even when the old buses were around. General atmosphere differences maybe? I suffer from hay fever really badly, especially this year. When out of this country it suddenly disappears, as soon as I am back so is the hayfever. I feel a conspiracy theory coming on! :-))

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

It can be a combination of factors that affect asthmatics, Steve, and sufferers can be very different. Hay fever seems more predictable, but maybe that’s because I don’t have that problem.

One thing that has put me off doing electronic repairs and building my own circuit boards is that I am allergic to the smoke produced when soldering. In the days when electronic circuitry was soldered manually, it was a recognised occupational hazard.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I think it is OK to discard things which, even if repaired, might not be so safe as a new product. What we should be much better at is recycling the material from which the original article was made. There is virtually no sorting or screening of waste being tipped into landfill sites – partly because separation is largely labour-intensive and unappealing work. Things put in wheelie bins and tipped into dustcarts get crushed or badly battered by the compression machinery and are just ejected at the disposal site. Large quantities of metal could be recovered to start with; it remains economical [and environmentally neutral] to re-process metal and certain other materials. Some waste disposal authorities do extract ferrous metal magnetically after incineration but more could be done. I hate to see wooden things chucked out – I can usually do something with them or at least re-use the wood, if not for the house then for the garden. So many wooden pallets get left lying around the yards of commercial premises; I have worked on a few – the biggest problem is the power-driven nails which are very hard to get out. Over many years I have made window boxes, planters, seed trays, greenhouse shelving, stools, benches, tables and garage racking out of old pallets. In fact we could hold a pallets garden party!

Profile photo of wavechange
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I am impressed, John. In my parents’ generation it was very common practice to dismantle unwanted items and make use of wood, nuts & bolts and much more. I don’t have much storage space, but I try to keep and reuse what I can.

I agree that modern goods can be safer but with an increasing amount of counterfeit goods being sold by Internet traders, I fear that safety standards could fall, particularly in the case of electrical goods. We should all look at our electrical equipment regularly for signs of damage to cables and overheating plugs. It is amazing that some will use an iron until the flex is so worn that the brown, blue and green/yellow wires can be seen. That is the sort of repair that most people would tackle in the past.

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For car repairs I use an independent mechanic who charges £35 an hour and will search out second-hand bits or rebuilds to save money if he thinks they will be satisfactory – helps keep old vehicles on the road. Years ago my video recorder needed a new head – supplied and fitted by someone working from home economically. So by searching around you can find economical ways of keeping things going if the repair is beyond your expertise.
It seems to me there is scope here for enterprising people to provide repair services, even if a spare time occupation. Tracking them down is the problem. Perhaps Which Local could be expanded to cover these people, and try to attract candidates – perhaps initially through a conversation?

Profile photo of Which Local
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Hi Malcolm

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this.

We always welcome recommendations at Which? Local – especially for those ‘hidden gems’ and enterprising businesses!

There are over 440 different businesses categories on the website and we are adding new ones on a weekly basis (depending on what W? members are recommending) so always feel free to send in more niche recommendations, and we can look to create a new business category if necessary.

Failing that, we can typically shoe horn businesses into existing categories with informative moderation notes e.g. your mechanic could come under ‘Car repairs, servicing & MOT’s’ with a suitable note explaining his business practices.

In short – send in your recommendations and leave the rest to us!

http://local.which.co.uk/members/make_recommendation

Which? Local

Member
Gerard Phelan says:
11 August 2013

Provocation is a standard technique for helping people understand what they really believe! I plead guilty to using it earlier.

Pots and pans, furniture, much garden and kitchen/household equipment is unchanged in function over many years, so we lose nothing essential in repairing the old rather than buying new. I spent hours disassembling my 20 year old electric lawnmower which had stopped working, to find the supposedly sealed motor compartment had filled with damp grass that shorted out the power supply. Financially it was an appallingly inefficient use of my time, but like others here I felt really good when I next cut the grass!

Computers, Phones, TVs and the like are less effective examples. True you can often fix a 10 year computer – as I do with mine, but it remains unable to run the latest programs and runs others much slower than I would wish. Cars might also be similarly classified. The latest models often ARE much more economical to run AND safer in operation and with far more facilities, from air conditioning to anti-lock braking and fold down seats.

Where I think we miss a trick here is in the second use / recycling infrastructure. Two of my local charity shops have furniture of fantastic quality at what seems to me really low prices. Thus I know where I will go when I want to get rid of some of mine. But if I drag out my old broken fridge freezer from the garage to the drive, it will remain there until I pay the Council to collect it. They do not even give a standard price on the website – you have to ask for a quotation. Back in the Midlands where I was brought up, the same fridge freezer will disappear overnight, as it did for some friends, courtesy of an unofficial metals recycling culture.

Slightly off topic, but in April I visited friends in Germany (Dusseldorf – Garath) and was appalled to see mounds of rubbish in the street. My friends explained that once a month the Council freely collects whatever i piled up in the street and it was that time of month. The ‘rubbish’ was generally big stuff like old kitchen cabinets, kitchen electricals, timber, bicycles, paint cans, etc.. It was another way of achieving the goal of gathering in rubbish, but one that seemed especially effective in ensuring it did not linger in peoples houses / garages, because the process of disposal was free and easy not complex and bureaucratic.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I’m glad you admitted to provoking us, Gerard. 🙂 Your earlier comments demonstrate the flaw of having an economic system that depends so much on purchasing goods. With increasing population, dwindling resources of raw materials and huge amounts of waste to dispose of, we need to think about an economic system that is fit for the 21st century.

By fixing your lawnmower, you have achieved something worthwhile, and with luck, a lasting achievement. You have put off the need to buy a new mower, many of which are not of very good quality.

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
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Hi Gerard, just back from Dusseldorf myself and watched Goodbye Lenin and wondered about the discarded bulky items in the city and the film. I think it is a good idea, though wet weather can be a problem. By contrast on a trip to Brecon Beacons we couldn’t find anywhere to take ordinary rubbish, it was impossible to find public bins big enough to accept even a carrier bag’s worth of rubbish. I think that the council there have been in the papers lately about their strictness on non-recyclable waste.

It should be easier to get rid of things, if I didn’t have a driving licence I’m not sure how I would have disposed of a lot of junk over the years. Things like Zipvan mean I don’t have to hire for a weekend or take a day off, which is a boon. However there are problems – last time I hired a Zipvan the previous user left several dismantled bits of furniture in there and which was a big pain as I had to accommodate it in my move.

Member
TerryinDorset says:
14 August 2013

As someone who said the poor should make do with things (or something like that) I’d like to recycle de Mauley.

Member
TerryinDorset says:
14 August 2013

As someone who said the poor should make do without things (or something like that) I’d like to recycle de Mauley.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I don’t think “the poor” were mentioned in this, were they? However, to renovate, recycle, mend or whatever to save money and get something you want or need is surely better than going without?
It frees up cash for things you can’t get cheaply. I’ve made quite a bit of furniture, and a fitted kitchen, for our house – cheaper, you get the design you want, and it is very satisfying. I think that is worthwhile whether you are “poor” or better off.

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I was told by one of the Council’s waste collectors that they just crushed the furniture they collected.
They obviously had nowhere to store it and no contractor to take it off them. I’ve often advised people to look for the Furniture Reuse Network members in their local area. The Council Reuse & Recycling Centre isn’t really that. All it is is a rescue from landfill for things that might have some value when broken down because they have to sit outside in the rain and no WEEE stuff will probably work after that.

It definitely isn’t somewhere for re-use so I would suggest you try everywhere else first if you have items in working order that could be used by someone else. Also try and get things fixed by someone else if you can’t do it yourself.

I’ve been told by someone at the Reuse & Recycling Centre that they get a lot of vacuum cleaners that just need the filters cleaning. Better instruction booklets perhaps and more easily downloadable. I’ve used an online store to buy filters for the kettle, belts for the Hoover and bags for the vacuum. That’s not really fixing/mending as my Dad would have done but these are things that aren’t easily bought except on the internet from one of these stores nowadays.

I would ask everyone to offer to help their elderly parents and neighbours by finding these things for them on the internet instead of them having to buy yet another machine. There are so many vacuum cleaners around nowadays that high street shops are unlikely to stock many types of vacuum cleaner spares. Elderly parents preferred the bags as they made it easier to dispose of the contents.

I’ve seen people’s faces fall when they realise that the table or whatever that they have taken to the Reuse & Recycling Centre is just going to be put in the crusher. Find a mender and/or find a Charity Shop!

Profile photo of wavechange
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Much is said about reuse and recycling, but many of us dispose of household goods that are still in good working order. There may be a genuine reason, but often it is personal wish or peer pressure.

As Lessismore has pointed out, sometimes all that is needed is a little effort to keep things working for longer.

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I have found that an allotment is a great way of recycling things that would normally end up in the bin. Spare timber is always useful for building compost bins, raised beds and for plant supports and plastic milk containers make (handy and free) mini-cloches for brassicas and other young plants, protecting them from frost, slugs and maurauding birds.

It is surprising how many folk are convinced that compost heaps attract vermin and are smelly. Provided you do not include meat or fish or cooked items there is no rat problem and no smell either.

The big problem with recycling electrical gear is that it is difficult to see what you are getting unless you are a real expert (which I’m not) and if cash is changing hands. I have been sold a pup on a couple of occasions and t.v.’s are often not a good buy second hand unless they are very cheap – usually the life of them tends to be short. I agree it’s a waste of money to buy the latest and the best electronics for the sake of it. Many computers and mobile sets have functions which it is unlikely people use in many cases. Bizzare ring tones on the bus especially with noisy and disinhibited users certainly set my teeth on edge.

I wish I knew more about how to service computers but it is not easy (I find) to learn this from books and the components are fiddly to install if you are not used to it.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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There is a response from Which Local above, welcoming repairers and restorers (my words). Perhaps if enough people send in their recommended people who offer “make do and mend, repair and restoration services” we might see more products being reused or having their lives extended. Are there many such people out there?