The wonders of 'upcycling'

The wonders of 'upcycling'

By being creative you can turn bits of old items into brand-new works of art or useful everyday objects

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Junior reporters (from left) Sophie Cheung, Julie Shi, Claron Niu, Wayne Yuen and Stanley Lam show off their masterpieces.
Junior reporters (from left) Sophie Cheung, Julie Shi, Claron Niu, Wayne Yuen and Stanley Lam show off their masterpieces.
Photos: Emily Shih/SCMP
The 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle - are popular in our city. But what about "upcycling"? It is a creative method to convert unwanted materials into useful products.

Our junior reporters recently attended a Creative Upcycling Workshop in Cyberport. They learned how to turn used lai see packets into lanterns ...


Guided by Wong Ka-ling, junior reporters found making objects from lai see packets was fun and rewarding.

Fold. Fold. Cut. Staple. Lai see lanterns are a fun and environmentally friendly way to reuse and recycle red packets. We made lanterns just by folding the corners and stapling the sides together to create symbolic shapes.

Although you are urged to be original, there are some basic guidelines. The simplest is to decide on the lantern's shape. Ideas range in difficulty, from simple windmills to more complicated goldfish. Then you have to decide how many red envelopes to use for your design.

Julie Shi



Teacher Wong Ka-ling shows how to turn used lai see packets into gorgeous paper lanterns.

Wong Ka-ling is a primary school teacher at Gaia school in Tuen Mun, who stimulates creativity in her students through her workshops.

"Hong Kong is a natural environment for upcycling," she says. "Living a consumer lifestyle means using things quickly and then getting rid of them. But when we make new things from used materials, we not only conserve, but also get to use our creativity.

"This is the way of nature. A tree drops its leaves on the ground and other plants use this as fertiliser."

I found making objects out of lai see packets was both fun and rewarding.

Claron Niu


"Upcycling helps stimulate our creativity," says Wong Ka-ling.

She told us a few examples of how children at her primary school show their creativity by upcycling waste. For example, students have converted materials from a broken umbrella into rain covers for school bags.

Wong's creative workshops make her happy. "The positive feedback from participants is rewarding," she says. "It's not a matter of how many people join my workshops, but whether they can bring about positive changes in each student's lifestyle."

Stanley Lam


Wong Ka-ling likes to come up with new ideas for upcycling. At first, she had planned to work on plastic bottles; she wanted to put soil in them for growing plants.

Then Wong began thinking of different things that we would normally throw away and how we could use them to create art.

One idea is to turn lai see packets into paper lanterns. She wants children to learn that they can use different materials to create something else from scratch, instead of simply buying a manufactured product.

Sophie Cheung


I did not think I was good at art, and so chose to start by making a little fish and a small windmill. These were relatively less complicated than other designs. I still faced many problems, but Wong Ka-ling was there to help me. In the end, I managed to overcome all the obstacles and produce my own masterpieces.

Wong says it takes lots of trial and error to create new products. Her motto is "Never give up". I was inspired by her perseverance.

Wayne Yuen

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