November 19th, 2020
The average drill is used for only 13 minutes in its lifetime
Having used a library of things, borrowers are 60% more likely to repair or recycle items
Power tools are a form of e-waste — the average Australian household produces 73kg of e-waste every year
Sharing has an important role to play in the circular economy. By outsourcing ownership to the community, we can reduce our individual impact and increase the lifespan, use and value of commodities.
In recent years, tool libraries and ‘libraries of things’ have been popping up all around the world to help communities consume less, reduce waste and save money. For the small fee of a library membership, tool libraries give members access to a huge range of useful items. If you’re living on the Gold Coast, you’ll soon be able to rent surfboards and drills through the city’s first tool library, which officially launches at the end of 2020.
We sat down with David Paynter, the man behind the Gold Coast Tool Library, to talk about how this circular community hub is propelling the city into the 21st century.
From a young age, David Paynter struggled to understand why useful items are thrown away. “I would see things being thrown out and think, ‘That's wrong! Somebody could be using that’,” he recalls. After spending several years working as an events coordinator at non-for-profits and volunteering for environmental organisations in his spare time, David’s passion for resource recovery has increased tenfold.
“Having spent many years working in horticulture, revegetation and environmental projects, you're so connected with the circularity of nature,” David says. “And nature does it perfectly, so why aren't we copying that?”
David is mimicking nature’s closed-loop systems through the Gold Coast’s first library of things. The Gold Coast Tool Library eliminates the need to consume new items, reducing strain on local people’s finances and the planet. This sharing model also extends the lifespan of products while maximising their value and use.
“I'm on a mission to change the world one household at a time and then encourage and support others to do the same,” David says. And, he’s well on his way. Now that the Gold Coast Tool Library is just about up-and-running, David is offering to help others set up similar initiatives in their own community. When we speak, he’s just gotten off a call with Launceston council about building a tool library in Tasmania.
“That's my way of paying it forward, I'll help those people who are just behind us in that sort of journey and process of how to establish your tool library,” David explains. Before you flood him with all your questions and requests, learn more about the process of building a tool library below.
Home to over 690,000 people, the Gold Coast is Australia’s second-largest council. “We're a big long strip up the coast,” David says. “[And] a lot of people come and go in transient sort of ways.” Whether that be tourists, students or people on short work contracts. Despite its size, and iconic status as a travel destination, the Gold Coast doesn’t have many community-run waste-reduction or upcycling programs. David saw the Tool Library as an opportunity to fill this gap in the community and provide resources for those who might be passing through the Gold Coast for a short time, as well as people who can’t afford to buy new.
On top of this, David was driven by a desire to address the environmental impacts of over-consumption. “For me, the driver is my passion about the destructive way that we as a human society impact on the earth,” he explains. “With a sharing platform like a tool library we design out the purchase phase of an item all together. By shifting to access rather than ownership, less objects need to be manufactured, reducing the extraction of resources and the associated energy debt that accompanies the manufacture, packaging and shipping of consumer goods.”
The Tool Library’s vision can be summed up in a simple question posed by David: “Why buy when you could borrow?”
Alongside the Tool Library, David will be running regular repair cafes that will help keep items in use as long as possible. Through these repair and reuse initiatives, David hopes to reduce the environmental impact of the Gold Coast as a whole.
“By sharing our resources within our community, we cut down a lot on the carbon footprint of a city,” David says. “[We also] reactivate dormant goods which are sitting there in people's cupboards, sheds and garages doing nothing, gathering dust, cluttering up the place, where they could be better put into use by sharing through the community.”
All not-for-profit spaces are community building hubs. People might get involved in any form of community group because they have an interest in what they represent, but quite often you find they stay because they find a tribe of like-minded people.
Across the circular economy, collaboration and knowledge-sharing is key to building successful circular solutions. This couldn’t ring truer for David. In the early stages of setting up the Gold Coast Tool Library, David spent many hours quizzing other tool libraries on their systems and processes. “There's a great network in Australia and international tool libraries and COVID's actually brought us together to communicate a lot more,” David says. “Lots of Zoom meetings and that sort of thing. Lots of information sharing.”
The next step was testing the market. “With any product, you might think it's the greatest idea, but you've got to test the market and see whether there's any interest,” David explains. “Very quickly, it came back with lots of interest from people that, yes, this was definitely a viable option. Especially with repair cafes, that was really well received by the community”
David is currently preparing to open the Tool Library’s first venue before the end of the year. “The first goal is: get the first venue up and running. And then, engage with as many members of that community region as possible to get them on board and get them to understand the whole principle of circularity — what we're doing here and the environmental benefits of it,” he says.
David wants the Tool Library to be an inclusive space where all members of the community can come to borrow items and share in the joy of restoring broken objects to a useful state.
“All not-for-profit spaces are community building hubs,” David explains. “People might get involved in any form of community group because they have an interest in what they represent, but quite often you find they stay because they find a tribe of like-minded people. They are there because they are sharing friendship, sharing cultures, sharing stories, engaging with people in a meaningful way. So that is very much a big goal of ours, to build this thriving collaborative community hub around sharing, repair and making.”
“If you're in our region, come and get involved with the Gold Coast Tool Library. If you're not, seek out one that is in your area because there are lots of tool libraries who are either close to opening or are in consideration mode where there's a group of committed people who are looking to put one together.
Get involved! Don't just sit back and do nothing.”