Tucked in the back of the Addison Road Community Centre in Marrickville is a building made out of straw and recyclable materials. This is The Bower Reuse and Repair Centre. Guido Verbist, Co-operative Manager of the Bower, was kind enough to give us a tour of the centre.
So when you actually cross its threshold, prepare to have a couple of hours up your sleeve to trawl through the rows and shelves of handsome upcycled furniture, light fixtures, house trinkets, home electronics, books, vinyl, CDs and more. If you’re handy enough to handle your own reno, there’s even a backyard full of sinks, tiles, timber and other building materials waiting for their new home.
The centre was started in 1998 as an off-shoot of its Addison Road neighbour Reverse Garbage, a re-use co-op focused on industrial waste. The building itself was made with salvaged roof trusses, broken mosaic tiles and re-used shop fittings – and it runs on solar power. Run by an affable team of 10 staff and around 40 volunteers, the Bower upcycles furniture, repairs electronics and bikes, distributes building materials and works with 1,000 organisations to recycle stuff that isn’t in a state to be rescued.
Around 15 tonnes of household goods are donated every month and the centre holds on to about 30 per cent of it, so you can imagine the Bower team has its work cut out for it with sorting, sifting, fixing and mending. There’s a specialised electronics department and a furniture upcycling workshop.
Next time you’re thinking of taking a trip to the tip, think about calling the Bower instead. They even have a truck that can pick it up for you.
As much as the space is a fascinating trove of pre-loved treasures, the centre can offer you more than a great wooden wardrobe full of history and character. If you come along to the Bower’s Repair Café – on every Wednesday from 1pm to 4pm – you can learn the tricks of the trade yourself. Under the protective gaze of Bower technicians, you can get your toaster working again, re-upholster a beautiful chair, or fix a precious but wobbly old bike.
You’ll come away with your item back in shape, knowing that you diverted something from landfill and that you have the skills to do this again (no longer is your dad or grandpa the gatekeeper of traditional ‘handyman’ know-how!). In opposition to the habits of ‘throwaway culture’ in which things have a short life span, the ability to fashion a door frame into a table or a drawer into a spice rack, is a chance to think creatively about our everyday objects.
“We want people to be inspired by the great quality of items that have been upcycled, but also by the knowledge that they can do this themselves,” said Guido Verbist, Co-operative Manager of the Bower, “Just as important as education, is making it easy for people to reuse and recycle. And all of our items meet a standard of quality. For example, all household electronics are tested and tagged, so they’re guaranteed to work safely.”
In recent times, donations, memberships and the popularity of workshops have grown so the centre is fast running out of room. This is a good problem to have! So the Bower is looking into setting up additional locations.