Very little goes to waste in Madam Lily Han's five-room HDB flat in Bendemeer.
Toilet rolls and old magazines are turned into pencil holders. Old newspapers are handwoven into baskets, and empty drink tetrapaks made into lamps and coin purses. Used coffee sachets are not discarded but turned into laptop slipcases.
Madam Han, 58, a pioneer generation coordinator and a mother of four, says her interest in fashioning things out of waste started in 2001. She wanted to make a few frames for the photographs of her youngest daughter, who was then a few months old.
As it was inconvenient for her to go out shopping with four young children in tow, she decided to make her own photo frames using old calendar stands and ice-cream sticks her children discarded.
"I found it so fulfilling to find new use for old things," she says.
She gets ideas from the things she sees around her and also improvises, teaching her daughters, aged between 15 and 31, to "upcycle" things from unwanted materials at home, such as cloth, cardboard, newspaper, styrofoam and tissue boxes.
Learning their lessons well, her children have a habit of making instead of buying gifts for their friends and teachers.
Her third daughter, Shu Yu, especially enjoys turning would-be trash into something of value.
The 20-year-old undergraduate says: "Using unwanted things, instead of buying something, to create, gives me the luxury of experimenting. I don't have to stress over wasting the thing if it does not turn out well."
Since 2011, Madam Han, who is married to machinist Tony Lee, 66, has also been running regular upcycling workshops for the public at the residents' committee near her home. Her children join her sometimes.
She says: "When people find they can turn something useless into something useful, they are often very amazed and happy."
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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