A critical review of the role of repair cafés in a sustainable circular transition

Rikke Marie Moalem*, Mette Alberg Mosgaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Extending the useful life of consumer products is a critical element in the circular economy. Although commercial repair is an established part of the global economy, the repair is often conducted informally. This means that non-commercial repair ecosystems exist, including the international network of repair cafés, spreading worldwide to over 2000 repair cafés in 37 countries (April 2021). As the first review on this topic, this article investigates and gains more knowledge about repair cafés, and critically assesses their role as a sustainability initiative, i.e., how the concept may translate into a broader sustainability context. A systematic literature review (2010–2020) was conducted, including 44 articles in descriptive and content analyses. The bibliometric data revealed an increase in the number of publications on repair cafés, particularly over the last four years, indicating that repair cafés as a research topic have started to gain attention, and this is likely to grow in numbers. However, the significant number of different places of publication indicates that this is not (yet) a well-established field with defined research channels. The content analysis revealed that the concept has spread to a range of different contexts, beyond the original scope, influencing the mindset and acts of a broad field of practitioners. This indicates a wide range of possibilities for the expansion of the concept of repair cafés, bringing different expectations on calling into question the future role of repair cafés. However, the aims of the people involved in repair cafés span from the altruistic and strategic, over personal gains, to critical consumer, financial and educational aims. This may challenge repair cafés’ future role(s), i.e., ambitions set by the international organisation of repair cafés. Notably, the ambition for actors at the micro-level is to feed in data on repair and achieve ‘collaborative repair’, as the aims of the people involved are complex, and their expectations lack alignment, both vertically and horizontally.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12351
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: The research in this paper is part of the project ’Fremtidens Intelligente Energi-og Ressourcesys-temer (FUTURE), funded by Interreg, The Capital Region of Denmark, and Region Zealand (Interreg ID: NYPS 20201560).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Actors
  • Circular economy
  • Product repair
  • Repair café
  • Sustainability


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