Two men repairing an unknown object
Paul Savino (left) and his father Paul Savino Sr. volunteer at Repair Time, a fix-it clinic operated by Washington’s King County. Ken Christensen, KCTS9

Paul Savino’s first patient of the day collapsed under the weight of an overgrown child. He’s seen these symptoms before.

“What we have here are a couple of dowel joints that have popped and one that has snapped,” he said. “But the patient will survive, I dare say.”

A piece of sandpaper, some wood glue and 20 minutes later, the toddler-sized wooden chair was back on its feet.

Savino’s been mending stuff since he was small enough to fit in the chair. Now, thanks to him and a cadre of repair-happy Western Washington residents, more broken stuff is getting a second chance at life. Savino volunteers at “Repair Time,” a new King County recycling program that aims to encourage residents to think twice before tossing their broken stuff.

“We live in a throwaway society,” said Savino, a woodworking teacher at West Seattle High School. “But sometimes it’s literally a tiny little piece of plastic can take a functional, useable object from the trash heap back into our homes where it’s alive and well again.”

In King County, about 75 percent of household goods discarded in landfills each year could have been recycled or reused, according to county estimates. The county aims to reduce waste to zero by 2030.

Tom Watson, public outreach coordinator for King County’s solid waste division, thought the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” could use an upgrade: a fourth “R”.

“Repair often gets forgotten, but it’s an important part of reuse,” said Watson, who helped start the program in 2016. “We are directly saving from going into the landfill.”

 

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Originally written by Ken Christensen