Upcycling a hit in the heartland

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen visits stalls at a day-long fair showcasing wares made from waste. The UP Market @ Central Singapore fair, now in its second year, aims to spread the message of waste reduction.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen visits stalls at a day-long fair showcasing wares made from waste. The UP Market @ Central Singapore fair, now in its second year, aims to spread the message of waste reduction.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

The duo came all the way from Jakarta to set up a one-day stall yesterday, hoping to spread a message about upcycling - turning unwanted materials into better-quality things instead of throwing them away.

Indonesian art teacher Lisa Tanti, 50, and her partner Ciska Indriyati, 54, were running one of the 18 stalls at Toa Payoh HDB Hub selling upcycled products at an annual day-long upcycling fair organised by the Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC).

Items on sale included bags, jewellery and crockery, all made from waste materials. Upcycling workshops and art exhibits were also held at the event.

The UP Market @ Central Singapore was first held last year with the aim of encouraging people to adopt a simpler lifestyle that values resources and reduces waste.

Ms Tanti, who started her small Art Noveau business 15 years ago, said: "I got frustrated and upset at how people keep throwing things away... Since I was in the art business, I started this to help people appreciate the idea that trash can be something beautiful."

She sold bookmarks, keychains, tote bags, purses and Christmas decorations made out of old newsprint, leftover Indonesian textiles and discarded PVC banners.

Her wares, made by a team of four people, cost between $10 and $40. At last year's fair, she sold more than 200 items totalling $1,000.

Part of this year's proceeds support the National Parks Board's Plant-A-Tree programme. Every $200 will help plant a new tree in the Central Singapore District.

Mayor Denise Phua said: "In this world that's always going for bigger, faster, more and more things, we hope that all these Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, repurpose) can be the values by which our society lives."

Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence and MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, was also at the fair to show his support. He presented prizes to winners of an upcycling contest that saw entries like a clock made from a pan and a lampshade made from plastic milk bottles.

Toa Payoh resident Chan Teck Siong, 42, stumbled upon the fair while out with his wife and two children. He said: "I came in to take a look and see what I can do."

The term "upcycling" originated in Germany in the 1990s. While a relatively new concept in developed countries, upcycling has been going on in Singapore for several years.

In 2013, non-profit group Participate in Design collected unwanted furniture from residents in MacPherson to turn into useful items for low-income families.

Lin Yangchen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2016, with the headline 'Upcycling a hit in the heartland'. Print Edition | Subscribe