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The Upcircle Story

Founder of Upcircle, Wee Leng is on a pursuit to repurpose the proverb often used to describe upcycling and recycling efforts - ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

From decluttering woes to community initiative

Wee Leng’s initial encounter with upcycling and recycling started as a personal undertaking to declutter her life. Picking out countless items which she no longer needed but still in great condition, she set out to find where or who she can contribute these items to. Despite spending hours online, it was difficult to find convenient recycling options in Singapore. However, she did come across interesting upcycling options. This experience inspired the initial creation of an upcycling website, featuring a collection of upcycling recipes, to serve as a handy resource for low and zero waste enthusiasts.

Wee Leng's old bedsheet turned floor mat
Upcycled cushion covers made from old uniform

Fuelled by her eagerness to offer more upcycling resources to low and zero waste enthusiasts, Wee Leng joined a number of zero waste and sustainability groups on Facebook. She realised that even though individuals are willing to give away items, it was not always easy to get the right match all the time. This was the catalyst for Upcircle.

Wee Leng was determined to find a way to connect people with unneeded items to people who need these items for their repurposing, upcycling or recycling projects and initiatives. After much research and validation, Wee Leng was certain that a platform to close this gap was necessary. She pitched the idea to NEA (National Environment Agency) and received the Call for Ideas Fund to develop the Upcircle app.

Upcircle App - fusion concept of a marketplace and crowdsourcing site

Hand bag made from crocheted plastic strips

Unbeknownst to most, there are tonnes of community initiatives and projects in need of widely varying in-kind contributions such as slightly chipped plates, non-functioning watches, toilet roll cores, cotton twines, Post-it note pads, laptops and more. Surprised?

Wee Leng developed the Upcircle app to help people easily discover the many meaningful projects and initiatives to which they can contribute their unneeded items, hence coining the term contributors. Of course, these projects and initiatives can only be discovered if creators - the project owners and community initiatives enable accessibility to them on the Upcircle app.

Back when Upcircle was first conceived, Wee Leng knew the app had to be more than just a connector between two groups of people – the contributor and creator. To truly facilitate circularity, the Upcircle app seeks to redefine the value of unneeded items, simplify the process for in-kind contributions, showcase the tangible benefits of in-kind contributions and support users’ participation as both a contributor and creator.

Upcircle's first event with partners

After much research and feedback from individuals in the zero waste community, the final concept of Upcircle was inspired by a fusion of two concepts - a marketplace and crowdsourcing site.

The ramp-up to the Upcircle app development was fast and furious, as interns and volunteers jumped on board. Today, the team comprises a team of 15 volunteers working on technology development, community engagement, social media outreach and growth of Upcircle. It was heartening to Wee Leng that so many people supported her vision for Upcircle, and generously committed time and energy to realising it together with her.

Upcircle's first huddle!

By the second huddle, the team grew to 15 members!

‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ no more

With Upcircle, the word ‘trash’ shall no longer be associated with repurposing, upcycling and recycling. Instead, Upcircle would like everyone to consider how unneeded items can be transformed for a new life.

The Upcircle app seeks to eliminate the common dilemma often faced by contributors whenever they do a clean-up – what to do with good-condition items, which no longer serve their needs if they don’t want to throw it out, yet they don’t really need it. They can use the app to discover and gain access to many different creators to whom they can contribute their items; kickstart their low or zero waste efforts in a fast, fun and easy way; and feel a sense of pride in seeing their contributed items transform into priceless creations.

For creators, the Upcircle app helps them reach a wider variety of contributors who are not aware of their project or initiative; connect with other project owners or initiatives for collaboration; and leverage its marketplace characteristics to build trust with contributors.

Closing the loop

Moving forward, the Upcircle team hopes to bring businesses, NGOs and government agencies into the Upcircle community, thereby creating a circular ecosystem of sorts. Their participation provides more options for contributors, opens up more collaboration opportunities for creators; and supports a loop of movement for in-kind contributions, as well as repurposed and/or upcycled creations.

Celebrate the virtues of repurposing, upcycling and recycling with Upcircle when you download the Upcircle app :)

Download the Upcircle app on your mobile phone today!

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