Q&A with Chris Moller, founder of the Cottenham Repair Cafe

Chris MollerRepair Cafés are a way of bringing together people who have something that’s broken, with people who know how to fix it. Typically a room full of engineers and repairers will spend the afternoon fixing anything from phones and tablets to lamps and bicycles. They are growing in popularity all the time, with nearly one thousand  in 22 countries from Chile to Latvia!

Chris Moller has been key to putting Repair Cafes on the Cambridgeshire map. A Cambridge engineering graduate and Chartered Engineer with over 30 years’ experience in electronics and telecoms, Chris is passionate about repairing what can be fixed and keeping stuff out of landfill.

We were curious to find out more about Chris and what makes him tick.  Chris is the first of five ‘people behind the circular economy’ that we’ll feature over the season.

  1. Why do you spend your spare time running Repair Cafes?
    I get great satisfaction out of making things work again, and I’m always interested in learning more about how things work. 

  2. How did you first get involved?
    I’m really not sure where I first heard about Repair Cafés, but it just seemed such a thoroughly good thing, a great thing to support our Community Centre café, and an excellent way to strengthen my network in the village. 

  3. What’s the best thing about being a repairer?
    Seeing the delight in someone’s eyes when you bring their thing back from the dead – you often seem to them as though you can do miracles! 

  4. Does any item make you shudder when it’s presented for fixing?
    Some manufacturers (Apple is a good example) have gone to extraordinary lengths to make their products difficult to repair. Some types of security screws are simply evil. 

  5. Is there a typical person who comes along to get things fixed?
    No, we get everyone from children to single parents to pensioners. Only professional middle-aged men seem to keep away (it’s quicker for the money-rich/time-poor to buy a replacement, I guess). 

  6. Are people interested in what’s wrong or are they happy for you to get on with it?
    The ethos of the Repair Café is very much to involve the Repairee, explain what we’re doing at every point, and show that there is no mystery to repairing things – they might even be able to do it themselves in future. Even if we can’t repair something, they will go away knowing more about the problem, and better able to make a judgement about whether to take it to a professional, or if it really is only for the dump. 

  7. What government policy would you like to see introduced to tackle eWaste?
    I would like to see Repairability and Product Design Lifetime traffic lights as mandatory on new appliances, like we have for energy efficiency today. 

  8. What three things could people do to reduce their personal eWaste?
    Bring it along to the Repair Café!

  9. How do you feel about climate change after the COP21 Climate Talks in Paris?
    I wouldn’t invest in low-lying countries! I have lived through an extraordinarily privileged time of consumption, but my generation has left our grandchildren some really hard problems to tackle.

  10. Repair Cafes have great cakes. What’s your favourite?
    Hmm, that’s a tough question….!