Used wine bottles get new lease of life as plates, tuna cans double as giant chess pieces at 'upcycling' market

Raffaella Nathan Charles Straits Times 2 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE - When three friends got together to drink their first bottle of wine at 18, they came up with a novel idea to preserve the moment: flatten the bottle, and "upcycle" it into pretty glassware.

A year and a half later, a successful business, Glassland, was formed to turn used glass bottles into pretty plates.

On Saturday (Dec 2), the company took up one of 30 product booths - up from 16 last year - at the third annual UP Market.

The event, held at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, was Singapore's first upcycling-themed market to encourage a zero-waste lifestyle.

Upcycling refers to the creative reuse of materials that are usually discarded.

Around 4,000 residents visited the day-long market, making their rounds through product booths from eco-friendly vendors such as Glassland.

"We have made more than 200 products, most of them customised," said Mr Lee Cheng Hei, 20, director of business development at Glassland, which now has four partners.

A lot of research went into engineering the glass-flattening process, including heating up the glass and the chemicals that went into it, said the second-year Ngee Ann Polytechnic student.

The plates, costing around $30 each, "challenge environmental sustainability concerns and encourage upcycling", said Mr Lee, who is studying business.

Another vendor, TerraSG, is a social enterprise that advocates eco-friendliness as well.

The business was set up to make "old things that people think should be thrown away into new things of even higher value than at first", said co-founder Kelvin Wong, 34.

Together with co-founder Eric Oh, 42, Mr Wong reached out to employ single mothers, the elderly and the intellectually disabled to make crafts such as fairy lights inside 1.5-litre milk bottles, coin pouches made of milk cartons, and coconut husk fibres converted into plant pots.

Mr Wong said: "We started out trying to be a ground-up initiative, calling for Singaporeans to be more green. We also knew we wanted to focus more on lifestyle products that approach environmental concerns in an appealing and sustainable way."

This message was also brought out by Mayor Denise Phua and Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

Mrs Teo, who is also Second Minister for Manpower and Home Affairs, hoped that the market could "enable more citizens to keep Singapore clean and green".

Mrs Phua reminded residents that Pulau Semakau's landfill was half full, stating that there was an "urgency to work towards a zero-waste Singapore".

The market also had workshops, game booths and six Instagram-worthy installations as well - a new concept for event organiser Central Singapore Community Development Council.

The six new installations aimed to inspire marketgoers to craft their own upcycled wares, and show cool household hacks such as using kettles as lamps, or use big plastic milk bottles as an organiser for assorted things at home, from cutlery to toys.

There were also bean bags made of T-shirts and a plant wall using plastic fizzy drink bottles.

Other than taking cute photos at the photogenic installations, families, and even senior citizens, had fun playing at the games booths. One had a giant chess board with round tuna cans as chess pieces.

Ms Thennarasi Gopalnaidu, a 24-year-old who works in the wine industry, said of the market: "It's an amazing initiative to encourage Singaporeans to be good to the earth. I do my own crafts as well, so it's pretty inspiring to see that we can craft while also staying eco-friendly."