Thrifty’s Retro owner Kelly Sharp (left) is one of NLWA’s repair experts. Photograph: NLWA

Zero-waste campaign Plastic-Free Hackney has welcomed the launch of pop-up repair cafés across north and east London which will see people offered free advice on how to fix things rather than buying new.

The North London Waste Authority (NLWA), responsible for rubbish disposal in seven boroughs including Hackney, announced the events after releasing new research which estimates 28 million toys, 22 million pieces of small furniture and 11,000 bicycles are thrown away every year when damaged.

The data, based on a survey of over 2,000 people, found that fewer than one in 10 try to restore broken property.

In an effort to change this “throwaway culture”, the NLWA is organising a number of free repair shops over the coming months, at which specialists will be on hand to fix items and offer tips on how to do it yourself.

The next event in Hackney is on 2 December at St Peter’s de Beauvoir Church, from 11.30am until 2.30pm.

People are asked to book a single 30-minute slot with a specialist in their borough in one of three categories – textiles, furniture or bicycles.

NLWA chair and Waltham Forest councillor Clyde Noakes said: “As society becomes more aware of the impact of our waste on the environment, we believe there is an appetite for moving away from the culture of habitually binning – or even recycling – and buying new.

“But many of us don’t have the skills to extend the life of household items – only 15 per cent of those we asked in our survey said they had repair skills.

“That’s why we’ve launched our programme of repair cafés – we want to encourage people to see the value in all items and to consider having a go at repairing things before giving up on them.”

Plastic-Free Hackney founder Bettina Maidment giving a talk on plastic pollution

The drive has been backed by Plastic-Free Hackney founder Bettina Maidment, who is campaigning to cut waste in the borough.

Bettina, who has been living plastic-free for nearly two years, said: “From polystyrene padding and gadgets imprisoned in blister packs, to plastic bags keeping every component separate – buying anything new these days means plastic, and tonnes of it.

“Even if you can’t see any plastic, it was no doubt involved along the distribution chain somewhere – new clothes, for instance, arrive at stores individually bagged.

“Then there’s the new item itself – so many nowadays contain a plastic component somewhere. And again, even if its totally plastic-free, just the fact that it is new means a huge amount of energy and resources have gone into making it.

“Repairing what you already have can therefore save a huge amount of waste – which is why the NLWA’s repair cafés are a fantastic idea.”

She added: “We need to learn skills which allow us to keep our belongings for much longer, and learn to love what we own rather than needlessly buying cheap replacements.

“My advice would be to try and find your own style and buy with longevity in mind – don’t be dictated to by advertisers whose incentive is for us to buy more!”

Bettina retrained as an upholsterer to stop her chairs ending up in landfill, and she has listed three simple ways to help people breathe new life into old pieces of furniture and “create something totally unique that will save money too”.

– “Give an old piece of furniture a new look using chalk paint. This requires no prep work – you just paint it straight on. You’ll have a revamped piece of furniture in an afternoon!”

– “Go one step further by decoupaging. This is basically cutting up and glueing bits of paper to an object and then varnishing over the top to finish.  Try using old maps or newspapers to give something a really individual look!”

– “It’s really easy to reupholster a dining room chair and give it a completely new look. For a really quick job, take roughly half a metre of fabric, pull it taught over the existing chair, and staple it to the underside of the seat. This can really transform it!”

For more information about NLWA’s repair cafés, and a full timetable of events, head to

To find out more about Plastic-Free Hackney, visit

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