The Churn Busters — Austria's RUSZ Repair Centre
'Churn' is a term used within the interior design industry to describe the replacement of mostly good fixtures and fittings with new stuff. Change for change's sake, basically. As Leonora recently pointed out the same sort of churn occurs with electrical appliances and white goods. Yet often we are 'upgrading' them simply because some small thing doesn't work quite right. As we demand more from our appliances, their level of complexity increases. And when one tiny link breaks in that complex chain, the whole shebang can stop functioning properly. Then for the sake of one small errant widget we discard an otherwise perfect washing machine, fridge or stereo. (Hopefully an issue the Design for Durability seminar will discuss). R.U.S.Z is an Austrian based Repair and Service venture that believes we don't need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is a remarkable and uplifting story of environmental and social success.R.U.S.Z salvages "selected washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, electric cookers and spin dryers, from Viennese waste dumps" and dismantles them to save their servicable components. These form a spare parts depot, which support other repaired appliances which are "put on the market at reasonable prices." These sold machines come with a service warranty, whereby R.U.S.Z agree to guarantee function (eg, clothes washing), not the actual appliance. Xerox are renown for similar service agreements for their photocopiers. Where R.U.S.Z differs is that its staff comprise "people over 45 who have been out of work for a long time and previously seemed practically unemployable." Over 70% of their temporary staff have found other employment since being involved in the program. And R.U.S.Z have become so adept at training staff they also offer Do-It-Yourself-Repair courses through the Vienna Institute for Further Adult Education. Oh yeh, and they have successfully reused 2,000 tons of so called 'waste', including "1,500 tons of which would have been scrap electric appliances." Other Austrian cities are looking to emulate the program.
R.U.S.Z is a member of a network of Austrian repair and service businesses and organisations that include :RepairNetwork and RepairNet. There is also a broader European-wide web of spare parts operations, known as the Ersatzteilnetzwerk. (All 3 in German.)
::Reparatur- und Servicezentrum R.U.S.Z In German. (See an English summary via The Best Practice Database of Austrian Sustainable Development Projects. Our research was stimulated by a news snippet at In Business.)