Dutch Are Reducing Waste By Fixing Broken Objects With Online Local Barter Network-And You Can Too
Finding someone who can fix a broken piece of furniture, mend clothing, or repair a family treasure has become easier thanks to a new online platform.
The guilder is a repair exchange platform, enabling the repair of broken objects with local knowledge, skills, and tools—but without any money being exchanged.
Objects like chairs, benches, tea pots, bikes, and backpacks have all be successfully repaired since the guilder went live at the start of 2022.
Based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, design graduate Ollee Means created the platform as a way to tackle waste, and believes “every object is worth repairing”. His studies had a strong focus on sustainable design, which included design for repair and refurbishment.
Ollee recognized that while a design that enables repair is important, the skills to undertake the repairs are also required in order to realize a regenerative economy.
“Being able to fix and repair things is a valuable skill, which many communities around the world are beginning to lose. People are willing to pay more to buy something new, rather than find a way to repair the existing. This creates a lot of waste, and is not sustainable. I began the guilder to make it easier to find people in your area who can repair things.”
The guilder enables good deeds to be swapped, with the value of the exchange being left open for individuals to negotiate. In this way we see a chair leg being fixed in return for a dress alteration—or a vacuum cleaner repair swapped for a hair cut.
Currently, repair exchange chains via the guilder have been carried out in Eindhoven and Amsterdam, but the platform is scalable, and has been set up in a way that any community can start using it.
“The system aims to keep repair exchanges local so that travel is reduced, reinforcing the knowledge in the community and serving to reduce the idea that getting something repaired is difficult”.
Not so long ago it was common to fix household objects yourself—from clothing to furniture and even cars. In addition, most small towns would have had a cobbler repairing shoes, and specialized shops for fixing TVs and vacuums.
Nowadays, many manufacturers make products un-reparable. Car engines are sealed so you can’t tinker with them, and electronic goods are glued closed making them difficult to get into and put back together. The “Right to Repair” movement is fighting against this by seeking legislation to make it mandatory for manufacturers to produce repair manuals, enable easy dismantling, and ensure spare parts are available for ten years. The European Union has already voted in favor of Right to Repair, with the first reforms being introduced in 2020 as part of key steps in achieving a circular economy.
With new legislation in place, products will be designed for repair, leading to improved opportunities to extend the lifetime of the things we buy. Ollee has an ambitious goal. “I’d like to enable 1 million objects to be repaired in my lifetime. The guilder will be part of this story. I want it to become a well-known platform where people will go to arrange repairs.”
The guilder has proved to be a successful concept so far. The number of repairs completed continues to grow and word of mouth has been an effective way to advertise the service. I asked Ollee why he thinks it’s been such a hit “There’s a clear need for the platform, and I think people like the novelty factor of connecting with the person who they make the repair exchange with.”
Ollee will take part in Dutch Design Week 2022 in October. He’s already started working on a podcast where design professionals will discuss opportunities and blocks around designing for repair, and people will share their experience using the guilder. Read more about exchange repair chains that have been enabled by the guilder at theguilder.org.