On 9th October 2021, the Community Garden in Liepaja was turned into an improvised exchange and repair centre, where an event took place – a discussion “TESLA LAB REPAIR CAFE – EXCHANGE AND REPAIR OF THE BELONGINGS”. During the event, Riga Technical University (RTU) in cooperation with the Waste Management Association of Latvia, Ltd. Liepajas RAS and NGO Radi Vidi Pats explained and tried to implement the 3R (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle) principles through various activities.

In the Community Garden, repair shops were available throughout the day, where experienced craftsmen gave a second life to what seemed to be thrown out. The electrical repair shop was led by Harijs Šķila. People brought non-working electric kettles, lamps and spotlights – everything was repaired or good advice was given on what to do next. The seamstress and artist Edīte Padāne worked nearby, who showed how to repair a broken bag and pants, as well as creatively use clothes that could no longer be repaired. The recycling principle worked similarly in a carpet workshop, where it was explained and demonstrated how carpets, trays, baskets and other household and interior items could be made from textiles that were no longer wearable.
The visitors of the event were able to bring things they no longer needed, but useful to others, to the temporary exchange point jointly created by the (ex)change point and the landfill “Ķīvītes”. Residents of Liepaja brought various good things – clothes, shoes, toys – and also took instead things they needed. Such exchange points or larger centres with repair and public education functions are already operating on a permanent basis in several European countries. In recent years, small and large exchange points have been introduced and are successfully operating in Latvia, as well. They are becoming more and more popular, as well as new points are established.
  One of the first restoration and exchange centres of belongings in Latvia, which is located in the sorting area, operates at the South Kurzeme landfill “Ķīvītes”. Such a centre was established because the landfill staff had noticed that people were happy to take things brought by others, which were still in good condition. In order to ensure that the left belongings are not damaged by the weather, the idea has arisen to put them in a special container, where anyone can leave no longer needed belongings or take things that are necessary.
The above-mentioned centre serves as a research platform within the pilot project “TESLA LAB” for testing innovative approaches to the application of circular economy principles in the Latvian waste management practice by implementing the 3R principles.
The exchange point also operates in Liepaja. It is an (ex)change point established three years ago by NGO Radi Vidi Pats and still operates with the help of volunteer duty officers.  You can bring clothes and shoes in good condition to this point, as well as take something for yourself.

There are also various belongings exchange points in Riga, which already operate on a larger scale. In recent years, the Free Riga Association has managed to open several free stores, as well as repair and construction material exchange points.
Along with the exchange point and repair workshops, the presentation of the project “OptiWaMag” and the pilot project “TESLA LAB” took place, as well as a discussion was held with the aim to reveal the possibilities for reuse of things, benefits and challenges of exchange and repair centres, and the need for such a centre in Liepaja. The discussion involved participants from the aforementioned organisations, for example, representative of RTU project “OptiWaMag” and waste management expert Rūta Bendere, representative of the repair and construction material exchange point, of the Free Riga Association and free store Zane Ruģēna, representative of the Regional Waste Management Center of Liepaja (Ltd. Liepajas RAS) Liene Jākobsone, representative of NGO Radi Vidi Pats and the (ex)change point Agata Babina, and the workshop craftspersons.
During the event, visitors were invited to fill in a survey on the need for an exchange and repair centre of belongings in Liepaja. According to the currently completed questionnaires, the majority of respondents answered that they would like to have such an exchange and repair centre in Liepaja. The results of the survey will be summarised in the coming month.

The event took place within the framework of the pilot project “TESLA LAB” of the project “OptiWaMag”. “OptiWaMag: Optimization of Waste Management in Urban Spaces and in Households” is a project of the EU interregional cooperation programme “Interreg Europe”, which has been complemented by the pilot project “Circular Economy Approaches Testing Reuse Laboratories – TESLA LAB” implemented by two OptiWaMag project partners – RTU (Latvia) and the municipality of Casalgrande (Italy).