Thousands and thousands of blue long-sleeved shirts – identical in style but in various shades due to differing degrees of wear and tear – hang on racks in an industrial laundromat in Woodlands.
For years, these clothes had travelled all over Singapore (some have probably been to your home). Now, they are here to find a new lease of life.
One year ago, Singapore’s postal service provider revamped its uniforms for more than 1,000 employees. Close to 12 tonnes of uniforms have been turned in and replaced with ones with a more colourful palette.
Some 33,000 old SingPost uniforms, including cargo pants, windbreakers and raincoats, would have been destined for the rubbish bin if not for a new upcycling effort launched last Saturday. They would be turned into tote bags, picnic mats and more.
The project, however, was a huge logistical undertaking.
First, the uniforms needed to be collected and sorted.
These two SingPost employees wearing SingPost’s new uniforms were among the many who worked, wheeling in bags of old uniforms to be sorted at the SingPost Tampines Regional Base, the consolidation point for old uniforms collected from six different bases around the island.
They included used and unused uniforms returned by the postmen.
Over four weeks, 13 SingPost employees unpacked the boxes and sorted the uniforms into similar groups.
Those that required washing were packed into boxes and bags before being loaded onto roller cages, which were then transported to an industrial laundromat.
Old uniforms still wrapped in plastic and did not require washing were sorted into boxes and stored, waiting for repurposing.
The uniforms were taken to Systematic Holdings, an industrial laundromat in Woodlands, where 4,410kg of uniforms were washed and dried in a span of seven days.
The uniforms were hung and conveyed through a steam tunnel machine with a temperature of up to 150 deg C. It removed creases from the garments.
Smaller parts of the uniforms like collars were manually ironed by employees.
Finally, the conveyor transported the uniforms halfway across the warehouse to where an employee manually sorted them by sizes and fabric type.
From the laundromat, the uniforms were then sent to SingPost’s three social enterprise partners to design and repurpose the garments.
Alfya Atelier is a social enterprise and sewing academy. Co-founders Latifah Suradi, 61, and Rabiatuladawiyah Akhir Jaafar, 37, worked together with six beneficiaries to produce two types of tote bags – a lunch bag and a reversible shopping bag – using the old uniforms, raincoats, cargo pants and windbreakers.
Ms Rabiatuladawiyah and the team used a template to cut the uniforms to size, and then sewed up the seams. (In this picture, she is working on a lunch bag.)
Meanwhile, seniors from Lions Befrienders Senior Activity Centres worked with non-profit social enterprise Social Gifting to design and produce bottle carriers, tissue holders, coin pouches and toilet-roll holders.
They managed to use all parts of the uniforms – sleeves were fashioned into wine bottle holders, shirt collars became toilet roll holders, and sleeve fasteners were used as handles for both products.
The third social enterprise that SingPost partnered is Our Barehands, which aims to provide artisans in Singapore and elsewhere with a more sustainable livelihood by working with them to create and sell a wide range of wearables.
In this photo, co-founders Germaine Lye (far left), 31 and Chanel Go (far right), 25, hold up a waterproof picnic mat they created with design student Callyn Yang (second from left), 21. Ms Cindy Yeo (second from right), a 62-year-old volunteer, took eight to 10 hours to complete one mat. Our Barehands also created cushion covers and reversible tote bags. Eight artisans and over 40 volunteers worked together to make 200 tote bags, 150 picnic mats and 100 cushion covers.
In total, five items from the postmen’s standard-issue kit – shirt, cargo pants, white T-shirt, windbreaker and raincoat – were creatively transformed into 12 different products as part of SingPost’s Re:Post project, which was launched last Saturday (Oct 9).
The products include coin pouches, reversible shopping bags, tissue holders, toilet-roll holders, tote bags of various sizes, bottle carriers, cushion covers, lunch bags and picnic mats, among others.
The products are on sale at 15 selected post offices and all philatelic stores, as well as on SingPost’s online shop and mobile app.
All proceeds will be donated in full to the South West Community Development Council in support of its South West Caregiver Support Fund and Meals Service @ South West.