The Essex man who is giving new life to old electrical items, and even old plastic bottles

Chris Blomeley, founder of Repair, Reuse, Recycle in Colchester

Chris Blomeley, founder of Repair, Reuse, Recycle in Colchester - Credit: Archant

While most people throw their empty plastic cleaning bottles away when they’re empty, one father of three from Essex has been refilling and reusing his for the last three years.

Chris Blomeley, founder of Repair, Reuse, Recycle in Colchester

Chris Blomeley, founder of Repair, Reuse, Recycle in Colchester - Credit: Archant

The Chris Blomeley from Wivenhoe is a big believer that single use plastic is killing our planet, and through his social enterprise, ‘Repair, reuse and recycle’, he is saving as much of it as he can from ending up in landfill.

Through the new workshop he’s opening next Saturday on Queen Street in Colchester, Mr Bromeley will be inviting others to turn up with their old plastic bottles and fill them up anew with fabric conditioner, laundry liquid and washing up liquids, supplied in large containers by an Oxford-base company, Sesi Refill.

In order to gauge whether or not the concept will catch on in Essex, Mr Blomeley’s 19 year-old son Harry has been selling the environmentally friendly products at farmers markets in Wivenhoe and Colchester.

“Harry loves it and really understands how important it is - we talk at the dinner table about being environmentally wise,” said Mr Blomeley.

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“I think that since Blue Planet showed the harm plastic is doing in our seas, a lot of families have been having those sorts of conversations.”

The new workshop will not only enable residents to reuse their plastic, but to act as a space for Mr Blomeley to repair broken appliances to sell on to low income families at an affordable price.

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“I reached out to members of the public through my network of contacts through Colchester Borough Council zone wardens, initially mainly to combat fly tipping, which is a big social problem. If you reduce fly tipping, you reduce anti social behaviour. I then resell items like washing machines to low income families for about £40 each.”

There is also a cash benefit for those who donate items: “If you phone the council up and say ‘take my machine away’, you would be charged £25, but if you call us, we will collect for free.”

Mr Bromeley recalls that when he was a child, there were about three electrical repair shops in Colchester, but now there’s only one left.

“People don’t tend to get things repaired anymore because often, the costs of repair is more than buying new one. Its the linear economy - We buy it, we trash it. Then you get a build up of plastic, which is a massive problem. As a rich nation, we sell our rubbish to Ghana, Poland, India and China and it just sits there on their land. Because its toxic, it leeches into the ground and affects the water table and causes massive problems.”

Mr Blomeley is working within what he calls ‘the circular economy’, which means when products destined for the dump are given a new lease of life. But its not just broken items he handles. “Sometimes we take things that work, because that’s another environmental crime - when people get their kitchen refitted, for example, they get rid of their old ones.

“But people in Colchester really want to do the right thing, and I’m just trying to make that as easy as possible for them.”

Mr Blomeley had been working as a housing manager when his environmental mission began four years ago with the launch of his repair cafe at his local library in Wivenhoe.

“People started bringing in irons, hairdryers and hair straighteners, then bigger things started coming in like stereos and TVs. Then I got £1,200 funding from SUIT initiative to pay for my electronics exams, and it was time for a career change.”

Mr Blomeley then joined a ECC-supported project, with additional funding from DEFRA, to repair a tonne of electronic waste and put it back into use. He is also currently busy researching the science behind plastic, and how to reverse granulate plastic waste into new products.

Mr Blomeley has also recently started working with another social enterprise, Lofty Heights, in Ipswich, helping to remove large electrical items from homes in Suffolk and putting them back into circulation. Look out for our article about their work next week.

Chris Blomeley’s top repair hack

When a remote control breaks down, people just go and buy another one for £25. But we found a little while ago when you crack one open, the soft touch button excretes oil which creates a circuit break. We soapy cloth, wash rubber pad, put back together and it works again.

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