In these days of built-in obsolescence and mountains of electronic waste Sepp Eisenriegler, whom I interviewed in Vienna recently for a profile, is a special man turning the tide. In 1998 Sepp created the Repair and Service Centre (R.U.S.Z), a warehouse on a small industrial estate in Austria’s capital where in a warren of rooms ceiling-high stacks of cookers, fridges, TVs, computers, radios, food processors, mobile phones, toasters and other appliances that most of us take to the amenity tip as soon as the warranty runs out and they begin to go wrong are being brought back to life by a team of highly skilled electrical and mechanical engineers. Either people bring in their appliances for repair at reasonable rates or R.U.S.Z saves stuff from the dump, fixes it up good as new and sells it on.
Sepp is one of a growing number of social entrepreneurs worldwide so R.U.S.Z also has a social purpose. He has so far given 300 long-term unemployed, the marginalised, serving and ex-prisoners and the disabled the opportunity to learn repair skills, the chance to earn a living wage and regain the confidence to go back into regular employment. R.U.S.Z is an object lesson in how to make things last, giving consumers better value for money. “At R.U.S.Z we don’t say second-hand,” Sepp explains, “we say second-life.”
“We have prevented 10,000 tons of waste from electrical and electronic equipment (better known as WEEE) from ending up prematurely in dumps.” On the debit side every EU citizen still produces around 16kg of WEEE a year.
A feature on Sepp and R.U.S.Z will appear on this website soon and in print in 16 languages right across Europe (R.U.S.Z imitators please!) Meanwhile visit R.U.S.Z at www.rusz.at