Upcycling and my Hobby

It was during the days of circuit breaker, that I first started integrating upcycling with my hobby. The latter was toy photography, and it involved bringing miniature figurines to life via the lens of a camera and the magic of photo-editing. Usually, the backdrop of my shots would be that of nature. I would wonder around the secluded green spaces of Singapore (e.g. little dirt paths, open grass spaces), taking shots of figurines as they ‘interacted’ with their surroundings.

These photography sessions were relaxing getaways that allowed me to explore my creativity whilst immersing myself in nature.

So, you can imagine my disappointment when the circuit breaker measures kicked in. Outdoor toy photography did not fall under the category of ‘essential activities’, so for the time being, it had to be given up. This was probably the biggest challenge for me. I was so used to shooting in the outdoors that I did not have a clue as to how to incorporate my hobby in the indoors. The amenities of my house were too oversized to be used as backgrounds, too inauthentic in scale to the miniature figurines for producing a great photo.

It was during this initial frustration that I noticed the amount of packaging waste my household had been generating, as a result of our shift to online shopping. We weren’t the only ones. After the circuit breaker went into effect, Singaporean households generated approximately 11% more waste than in prior months (Liu, 2020). My family was accumulating and recycling mountains of cardboard boxes and Styrofoam packaging. However, unbeknownst to us at the time, not all of these items were actually recycled!

According to the National Environment Agency, in 2019 only about 44% of cardboard and paper were recycled, while only 4% of plastics (and Styrofoam is one of them!) were recycled (National Environment Agency, 2019). Assuming Singapore’s 2020 recycling rates are similar to its previous year’s, that meant a good portion of our packaging waste wasn’t actually recycled, even if we intended them to be.

This was when I started looking into upcycling, which is method of reducing household waste by converting it into a new and usable product (youmatter, 2020). I started finding other uses for my household’s packaging waste, specifically, looking at how they could solve my photography background issues. Eventually, an idea hit me! Gathering my required materials, I went to work. This was what I came up with!

With the unused packaging, I made a hanger diorama for my toy photography! The base is made from Styrofoam, spray-painted silver to give it a metallic glean. The cardboard pallet fastened to the diorama’s mid-section serves as an observational post and is meant to resemble a control tower. Lastly, the painted cardboard on the lower left-hand corner is a pair of blast doors.

The entire process was required little more than paint, glue, and a little ingenuity! It was a really fun passion project to undertake, so much so that I started making additional dioramas!

I was surprised at how versatile these materials could be! Blank pieces of Styrofoam became detailed, miniature brick walls with just some cutting and painting.

Pieces of cardboard could become window panels, shuttered warehouse doors, or even building signage. Plastic bits from model kit frames could be used as pipes running along the sides of buildings!

The creation of these dioramas kept me busy during the circuit breaker period, enabling me to not only find a new creative outlet, but to also practice upcycling and give new life to waste materials that were previously meant for the bin! It also enabled the continuation of my toy photography from the indoors!

Overall, it feels great to be able to implement good environmental practices like upcycling with my hobby. It’s simple, cheap and has limitless potential! Moreover, it reduces the amount of waste we introduce back into our environment, reducing our negative impact on it.

What are some of your own upcycling ideas? Be sure to share them in the comments down below!

Written by Joseph Wee


Liu, V. (7 May, 2020). More trash in past month, but fewer waste collectors amid Covid-19 circuit breaker. Retrieved from The Straits Times: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/more-trash-in-past-month-but-fewer-waste-collectors

youmatter. (21 January, 2020). Upcycling Definition. Retrieved from youmatter: https://youmatter.world/en/definition/upcycling/

National Environment Agency. (2019). Waste Statistics and Overall Recycling. Retrieved from National Environment Agency: https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-services/waste-management/waste-statistics-and-overall-recycling

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