Coming to a high street near you: factories that repair your electronics

The UK is the largest producer of e-waste worldwide. Can ‘fixing factories’ help turn the tide? Campaigners think so – and want to open one on every UK high street

The UK’s factories were the engine rooms of the Industrial Revolution, introducing the world to new ways of working, making and consuming. Can two ‘fixing factories’ in London help do the same for the burgeoning circular economy? 

The facilities will produce nothing, even though they are expected to open in Camden or Brent this spring. Instead their volunteer workforce will repair people’s broken electronics on a pay-what-you-like basis. They will also provide workshops and training to help people repair their own items.  

“We’ll turn the Fordist factory on its head and forge new spaces for fixing, learning, curiosity and empowerment,” said the Restart ProjectThe repair charity that was involved in this project is.  

Fixing factories is a smart move given the UK’s current cost of living crisis. But breathing new life into old items doesn’t just save people cash. It reduces emissions and helps stem the growing tide of electronic waste, which is accumulating at landfill sites all over the globe. 

The UN predicts that the world could generate up to 120m tonnes of e-waste annually by 2050. It will largely accumulate in the global South, where the west dumps large amounts of its refuge. The waste is a threat to the planet and people, as some developing countries have poor safety and environmental standards.

Start fixing factories. They are designed to transform our relationship with used electronics and boost ailing towns. Camden’s facility will be located in a prominent spot on the high street. The goal is to have an electronic fixing factory in every town.  


Qualified volunteers will breathe new life into faulty electronics. Image: Mark Phillips/The Restart Project

The factories were inspired by the Restart Project’s ‘fixing parties’, where people are invited to have their faulty items repaired over a cuppa or a beer.

“Camden is where we ran our first party almost 10 years ago, and we’ve enjoyed bringing our events to pubs, community centres, churches, festivals, universities and other venues,” Fiona Dear, the charity’s co-director, told Positive News. “We hope the local fixing factory will provide an opportunity for residents to be even more involved with our work.”

Climate charity Possible was the inspiration behind the idea of starting fixing factories. A £190,000 cash injection from the National Lottery Community Fund helped get the project going. Other partners include London Waste Authority, Mer IT Digital Training School and Ready Tech Go are three organizations that repair faulty laptops.

The majority of people working in the factories will not be paid, but there are three positions that can be hired through the program. Restart Project, Possible Ready Tech Go. Waste, evidently, pays. 

Main image: Mark Phillips/The Restart Project