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What is upcycling and how can I get involved?

Waste not, want not! With just a little spark of creativity, and perhaps a fresh coat of paint or repurposing of some raw material, we can turn chopsticks, a table leg or even empty milk cartons into something fresh, unique and valuable. In fact, just last year, retiree Mr Sim Boh Huat recreated the shape of Singapore using 80,000 bottle caps in an open neighbourhood square in Bedok.

Re-manufacturing refers to the extension of a product’s lifecycle through reusing and refabricating its components.

Upcycling refers to the process of reusing end-of-life (EOL) components and materials to make new products in a way that maintains their ‘value’ to an equal or greater degree. In other words, it is the act of giving a “second life” to items that are no longer of service.

Upcycling is a key component in effective design and waste management strategies. It reduces the amount of resources entering the waste stream, and encourages EOL items to be redesigned for a new purpose. Less landfill means a healthier environment. Upcycling also contributes to the reduction of carbon emissions produced, contributing to a circular economy.

In addition, upcycling can be seen as a form of “art therapy”, and as a way for people to transform old collections into beautiful and functional products.

Here are some suggestions just to get you started!

Upcycling Fashion

Grew out of an old sweater? Colours on your shirt faded from repeated washing? Or have you inexplicably lost one-half of your favourite socks? Find ways to fashion them into new clothing items!

It doesn’t take much at all –on the contrary, you can add your own personal touch to the clothes you’ve pre-loved. By embroidering your initials onto your jacket, sewing your favourite designs, a silhouette of your beloved pets and even avatars to hide blemishes, or adding new splashes of colours to cover up some holes in your jeans, you can find exciting ways to create something new and something you! A cool design from an old t-shirt can even be repurposed as a patch on a jacket if that’s your style.

Alex Barber, Unsplash

Moreover, this is an incredible way to combat the environmental and social impacts that are caused by fast fashion. In Singapore, a 2020 study by the National Environment Agency finds that fashion and textile products account for 137,000 tonnes of waste, with 64% of the 32 billion garments produced yearly ending up in landfill. Garment manufacturing also contributes to the release of 4 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

There are various ways we can upcycle fashion into trendy clothes or maybe even repurpose them for other uses, but if you aren’t handy with a sewing needle yet, fret not. There are plenty of tutorials and videos online to show you how to do it.


Here's a list of 10 ways we for us to upcycle old clothes. So put your thinking cap on and turn your cap into a bedside pocket!

Upcycling Furniture and Electronics

Your wardrobe is not the only thing you own that can do with a revamp. Let your mind wander into ways you can turn your old and broken furniture into brand new home accessories too!

If it’s time for a new look for your bedroom, consider splashing on a fresh coat of paint on your bedside tables and cabinets to give it a fresh new do. You can also gather empty milk cartons and fashion them into a sustainable decoration for your home. Additionally, if you have an old and broken television set, you can consider dismantling the pieces and refurbishing it into a bed for your pet!

The possibilities, just like the benefits, are endless if you decide to embark on this upcycling journey. Apart from reducing the usage of natural resources, manpower and energy, you would also be saving money from purchasing new household furniture. As a bonus, it will add a personal touch to the items that adorn your home!

If you would like to see more ideas and suggestions on ways you can upcycle your furniture, read about the 15 suggestions Architectural Digest has for aspiring upcyclers.

Shop at brands and businesses that promote upcycling

If you are not able to afford the time it takes to take part in upcycling activities yourself, consider shopping from businesses that do and support our local innovators and designers.

By supporting local brands whose products come from items that have been upcycled, we will also be celebrating artisanal work as well as appreciating supporting craftsmanship.

Join us to take part in some upcycling yourself with like-minded people!

By The Bay will be organising several activities throughout the year that aim to uphold BayGreen’s efforts in green initiatives you can participate in and support.

We invite By The Bay community members to join us for an upcycling workshop on 15 February 2023 to learn how to repurpose unwanted clothes and turn them into coasters with basic weaving techniques. Sign via the By The Bay app through the BayGreen tiles in-app.

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