Tool box with repair, upcycle, mend stencil text surrounded by repair tools on bench, consumer activism to repair household items to reduce waste and support a sustainable lifestyle

Repair and Reuse

Repair and reuse is a fundamental part of the circular economy, maximising the lifespan of products to keep them in circulation for longer, and increasing their rate of usage so that the maximum value is obtained from the resources invested in the design, manufacture and distribution of those products.


Repairing items extends their lifespan and keeps them in circulation for longer. This has many benefits for the environment including preventing them from being converted into waste, reducing unnecessary demand for raw materials to manufacture replacement products, along with the CO2 emissions created in the manufacture and distribution of these replacement products.

Many household appliances, electronic equipment, garden tools and items of clothing can be repaired with a little know-how, and sometimes with a little friendly help and advice.

Female repairing a bicycle wheel.

Belfast Repair Café

Repair Cafés are sprouting up all over the world, and we now have our very first one in Belfast.

Repair Cafés are ideal for fixing things such as small electronics; simple computer problems; toys with broken wheels; torn clothes, missing buttons, broken zips; small items of furniture; bicycles; books; or other household items.

You can either fix it yourself or get the help and advice of specialist volunteers to carry out a repair.


Reuse is the action of using an item, whether for its original purpose or to fulfill a different function (repurposing).

The reuse of items is a fundamental principle of the circular economy. Reusing and repurposing items gives them a new lease of life, extends their lifespan, and delays the product being turned into waste for as long as possible.

We have all seen wine bottles upcycled into beautiful vases, or old shipping pallets repurposed into patio furniture, but reuse is also about how items are used and the way in which we access these items to maximise their usage. It includes purchasing second-hand items, swapping, donating to charity shops, hiring, and borrowing.

Reduce, reuse, recycle planter, craft ideas. Second-hand kettles, saucepans, old teapots turned into garden flower pots.

Many items that we buy are low usage items, eg specific tools for a DIY project that might not get used again for years. Hiring or borrowing these low usage items has many advantages, from lower acquisition and maintenance costs to storage space saved, and the resources invested in these items are used more efficiently as more people have access to them, reducing the unnecessary demand for new products. Hiring and borrowing can be accompanied by instructional workshops, getting people together to interact and engage in shared interests, supporting community and social cohesion.

A great local example of this is Cloughmills Community Action Team, a community group working to improve the social, economic and environmental quality of life in their local area through things like bicycle hire, tool sharing, a community garden and fridge, and much more.

Picturing showing gardening tools on a shelving to be used by the local community
Pic courtesy of Cloughmills Community Action Team

Check out some of the other great organisations involved in the Reuse sector in Northern Ireland such as 4 R’s, Belfast Tool Library, Tools for Solidarity, East Belfast Mission, FareShareNI, and Refill NI.

Repair and Reuse in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Resources Network logo.  Reuse, Rethink, Repair.

The Northern Ireland Resources Network (NIRN) is the representative body for reuse and repair organisations in NI. The aim of the organization is to promote sustainable reuse and repair as a practical and effective way of tackling Northern Ireland’s waste generation and developing opportunities in the Circular Economy.

The ethos of the organisation is Rethink – Reuse – Repair, with a strong recognition that the first step in transitioning to a circular economy is driving a psychological change in people’s purchasing and consumption behaviours through awareness and education (Rethink).

Network members include local authorities, social enterprises, charities and community associations who are all proactive in encouraging people to reduce waste and finding ways to reuse or repair items.

From the budding amateur DIY’er in need of the lend of a tool for a few days, someone looking for help and advice to repair a cherished family antique, or upcycling an unloved item into something beautiful, the NIRN and its member organisations has a wealth of knowledge and resources in your local area.

Pic courtesy of Belfast Tool Library

Follow the Northern Ireland Resources Network on social media.