MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Instead of throwing them out your broken electronics or appliances, Hennepin County wants to teach you how to repair them, so they stay out of a landfill.

Lined up on a Saturday morning waiting to get inside the Hennepin County drop-off facility, Elizabeth Gales is bringing in a VCR and rice cooker that finally died.

“It had a good life. It was time for it to go,” Gales said.

By the end of the day, Hennepin County will have taken in two huge bins of stuff. By the end of a year, that’s more than 300,000 electronics and 13,000 appliances.

“I have no mechanical aptitude, especially for anything electronic, that’s why I’m recycling today,” Gales said.

That’s why Nancy Lo decided Hennepin County would be perfect for a “Fix-It Clinic.”

“I read a story in the New York Times about how they were doing repair cafes in Amsterdam,” said Lo, who works for the Hennepin County Department of Environmental Services.

The idea is simple.

One Saturday a month, about a dozen volunteers teach people how to fix their broken vacuums, DVD players, blenders, cassette players, sewing machines, radios and more.

“I think a lot of those skills have been lost. A lot of things are made these days really cheaply,” Lo said.

Lo says the goal is to change the mindset of our throwaway economy, where there are fewer shop classes in school, replacement items are relatively cheap and most things are harder to fix.

This is the 10th Fix-It Clinic and more and more people come every time. They can help you fix 70 to 85 percent of your things.

“It’s not just drop it off like at a repair shop, and then you have no idea what happened. The idea is that you take ownership of your stuff and learn how to take stuff apart, troubleshoot it and then, hopefully, learn how to fix it,” Lo said.

In total, they have kept 3,000 pounds of stuff out of landfills. And, in the first few minutes, you can tell they’re having some fun doing it.

Before the next Fix-It Clinic, Hennepin County will hold a “Mend-It Clinic” for things like sewing, buttons and hems. That’ll be Saturday, June 29, in south Minneapolis.

The next Fix-It Clinic is July 20 in north Minneapolis.

Heather Brown

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